Herald-Independent & McFarland Thistle: Amazon neighborhood listening session draws local residents

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The Herald-Independent and McFarland Thistle | Madeline Westberg

More than 80 Cottage Grove and Sun Prairie residents participated in a neighborhood listening session about a proposed Amazon distribution facility this week.

A site on the corner of County Highway N and County Highway TT totaling 130 acres has been sold by Cottage Grove Business Development LLC to Services LLC for $29.7 million, records from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue say.

Developer Trammell Crow Company (TCC), one of the largest industrial and healthcare developers in the country, is working to develop the property, which TCC is calling “Project Silver Eagle.”

TCC is proposing a five-story warehouse distribution facility, set on 145 total acres located behind the BP gas station on that corner. The plans propose a 650,000 square foot base footprint, with the building standing 93 feet tall. The total square footage of the facility would be 3.4 million, with 90,000 square feet devoted to office space.

The facility would include 60 loading docks, 326 trailer parking stalls, 1,700 car parking stalls and four entrances. Three of those access points are proposed on County Highway TT for passenger vehicles, with one driveway on Highway N for truck traffic.

Developers say it’s estimated that the facility would see $200 million in capital invested by the project and create 1,000 to 1,500 full-time jobs. The facility would be used for storing, sorting and transporting product.

The property was annexed from the Town of Sun Prairie into the village of Cottage Grove about ten years ago.

TCC held two listening sessions on the project on Monday, Feb. 7, moderated by senior associate Morgan Baer Blaska of TCC and MadREP, an economic development organization that serves eight counties, including Dane County.

“This meeting is to give you all the opportunity ask questions…voice some of your opinions and concerns,” said MadREP CEO Jason Fields.

More than 80 community members signed on to join the evening listening session. While a handful of written comments during the meeting expressed support for the project, the majority of comments were opposed.

Some of the questions asked by participants focused on stormwater retention plans, property value concerns, concerns on Amazon business practices, environmental impacts on McCarthy Park, impacts on surrounding neighborhoods, traffic and lighting impacts, and others.

At the session, Baer Blaska said she would not share any information about “the user and potential operations,” referring to Amazon. Developers didn’t respond to any questions about Amazon’s operations or planned uses for the facility, saying it was “not our area of expertise.”

Developers and engineers instead focused on the facility design, sharing additional information about the stormwater management strategies on the property, lighting and window concerns and sound pollution.

Baer Blaska and engineer Adam Artz said the property’s grading decreases toward the center of the property, which will allow for stormwater drainage and noise buffering due to the topography of the property.

“The building sits deep in its own crevice,” Baer Blaska said.

Artz added that the project shouldn’t impact well levels of residential wells, and the stormwater systems are designed to protect from any potential contaminants to area wells.

Baer Blaska and Artz added that there will be a lighting study submitted to the village for approval, but that the facility would run 24/7. The developers don’t have data presently on windows and compositions, but have a fully-glass facility. They also said there would be landscaping and retaining walls to curb noise pollution.

When asked aboutthe Silver Ridge neighborhood nearby, Baer Blaska said a conservation easement owned by the town of Cottage Grove prevents developers from moving the site further away from neighboring residences.

Baer Blaska asserted that TCC has seen property values near facilities like this one tended to go up, and that the developer has not applied for any tax breaks from the village or state.

“This will be a tax-paying entity and revenue-generating facility for the village,” she said.

One participant in the call asked “why this project is so far along.”

Baer Blaska responded that the developer held its first neighborhood meeting in December, and has engaged with the village in public meetings in January.

“We have been actively public since December, and will continue to host these meetings as necessary,” she said.

Village administrator Matt Giese and Director of Planning and Development Erin Ruth say the next step for the process will be TCC presenting a “precise implementation plan,” a more specific plan involving more concrete engineering information. That plan is set to come to the Cottage Grove Plan Commission on Feb. 16, and to be considered by the village board on Feb. 21.

From there, the developers would need to create a developer’s agreement with the village, which would likely come forward in March. Then, the developer would be responsible for getting the building plans reviewed by the state.

Giese said it’s possible that developers could consider starting construction in 2022.

Participants on the neighborhood listening session said they intend to participate in the village approval process.

“The village of Cottage Grove and the town of Sun Prairie are where a lot of your issues need to be raised,” one participant told others during the session. “That’s where your voice will be heard.”

Article originally published on The Herald-Independent and McFarland Thistle.