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Developer withdraws application to bring Amazon project to Grand Island

Posted at 5:13 PM, Aug 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 23:28:26-04

GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WKBW) — A controversial plan that would have brought an Amazon distribution center and at least 1,000 new jobs to Grand Island is now off the table.

According to the Town of Grand Island, TC Buffalo notified the town it was withdrawing the application for the project, known as "Project Olive." A public hearing on the project set for tomorrow night has been canceled.

Grand Island Town Supervisor John Whitney said developers called him at about 4 p.m. Wednesday. He said developers told told him cost increases, interest in other locations, and labor requirements played more of a role in the application withdrawal than public opposition did.

The project, which called for a 3.8 million square foot distribution center to be built on Long Road off I-190, has been criticized by residents who said they did not want a massive warehouse built on the Island.

The Coalition for Responsible Economic Development for Grand Islandpresented the Grand Island Town Board with a petition containing a little more than 1,700 signatures, asking town leaders to reject the project due to traffic and environmental concerns.

“We don’t believe that a massive, one of the world’s largest warehouses, being built on this island is a good idea," Cathy Rayhill, the group's spokesperson, told 7 Eyewitness News on July 31. "We don’t think that’s responsible, it does not fit the character of the island that we have either environmentally or from a residential perspective."

As of Wednesday, the group said the petition has grown to more than 2,200 signatures.

Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty issued this statement to 7 Eyewitness News:
“Amazon is a dynamic business and we are constantly exploring new locations. We weigh a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve customers. We have dozens of fulfillment centers, sortation centers and delivery stations under construction and evolving around the world. It’s common for us to explore multiple locations simultaneously and adjust timetables based on needs across the network. We have decided not to pursue a location in Erie County at this time, although we continue to explore opportunities to invest and grow across the region and New York state. We appreciate the time and attention committed to this potential project by the Town of Grand Island, Erie County, Invest Buffalo-Niagara, and state officials throughout this preliminary process and introductory meetings.”

It's unclear if Amazon could select another site in Western New York for the project.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has said he preferred the former Bethlehem Steel site for the project.

“If we turn our back on this project, it’s basically sending a message to a lot of these other mega projects that do exist out here, don’t come to Erie County, don’t come to WNY, and I don’t think that’s a message we can send especially at a time when thousands of people have lost their jobs," he said.

Further, he issued this statement Wednesday afternoon:
“My administration has worked hard over the past several years to bring Amazon to Erie County, but we were informed today that after further consideration Amazon has decided to halt their planned project on Grand Island. This is an unfortunate development as this project would have brought over 1,000 new jobs paying a living wage to our community and would have generated tens of millions of dollars more in taxes for the county, the Town, and the school district, but Amazon has decided that the fit is not right at the current time. Amazon has created jobs in Erie County and invested in our workforce at their two other local facilities, so while the Grand Island location is now off the table my team is prepared to work with them if necessary to identify another possible location for this regionally-important project or any other project. Our focus on economic development and job creation in Erie County remains as strong as ever, as evidenced by today’s topping-off event at the new TMP Technologies facility in Lackawanna.”