A group of Churchill residents are concerned about the impact of a potential Amazon distribution center in their small residential community.
The former site of the George Westinghouse Research Park, a 133-acre parcel located within Churchill Borough, could be developed into an Amazon property.
The potential buyer for the property is Hillwood Development, a Texas-based group that was responsible for acquiring land near Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay for an Amazon warehouse in 2019.
According to the Churchill Borough website, Hillwood Development has identified the end-user of the Churchill site as Amazon.
Churchill’s Planning Commission is scheduled to host a third Zoom meeting on the topic at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Borough Manager Alex Graziani confirmed that there is a pending land development application and a conditional use application from Hillwood Development and recognized that some residents have voiced concerns.
“The lengthy and detailed process Churchill Borough is in the middle of is intended to address Borough officials’ and residents’ concerns related to this massive proposal,” Graziani said.
The plan for the site involves demolishing blighted buildings on the lot and constructing a new four-and-a-half story, 2.6-million-square-foot distribution and logistics facility. The development could bring more than 1,000 full-time jobs with benefits, the borough wrote in a recent newsletter.
The idea of putting a large Amazon distribution center in the middle of a small residential borough doesn’t sit well with many residents.
“Our concern is this is a square peg in a round hole,” said Murray Bilby, a Churchill resident who opposes the project. “We don’t have in our residential area the infrastructure to support a distribution center.”
Bilby created a website outlining a plethora of concerns that he and other residents have about the proposed development. Bilby said he has no issue with Amazon. He opposes the concept of any large distribution center occupying the space.
“We want to develop the property, but it should be appropriate for a residential community,” he said, suggesting that shops, restaurants, office spaces or a hotel would be more suitable uses for the plot of land.
George Westinghouse Research and Technology Park in Churchill.
Steve Landay shared similar concerns. He grew up in Churchill and lives there today. He contends that the borough doesn’t have the infrastructure to support an influx of traffic as trucks travel to and from a distribution site in large numbers.
“There’s a group of us that are really trying to raise red flags about how this type of facility has never been put in residential neighborhoods before,” he said. “It doesn’t belong here. The existing infrastructure can’t support what we currently are experiencing, let alone trucks pulling out. It’s just ridiculous from the traffic point of view.”
Landay said many residents were concerned about what the construction would do to water drainage. The project would involve cutting down up to 1,000 mature trees and would increase the concrete footprint on the site, he said.
“People are concerned about water runoff, water drainage,” he said. “It’s personal. This is my backyard. This is where we live.”
Cathy Bordner said she lives 792 feet from the site. She, too, raised concerns about traffic congestion and environmental impacts.
“It really bugs me that we are working so hard to improve the environment, to protect the environment and then we let a company do something like this,” she said. “There’s so much green space there and we should be trying to protect that green space because of what it does for our water and air quality.”
She noted concerns about pollution and the light and noise that could emanate from the site day and night.
Landay said he realized redeveloping the site could bring in tax revenue, which would benefit the…