Town has questions for Amazon but unsure how to communicate

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Completion of the new Amazon warehouse is the Granville Sentinel's Number 1 story of 2023. File photo

By EJ Conzola II

Granville officials are hoping better communications with those behind the Amazon “last mile” warehouse facility on County Route 24 just outside the village will resolve several deficiencies at the site that they say fail to meet conditions set forth in the site plan approval that will allow the facility to open.

However, the officials said they’re unsure precisely with whom they should be communicating.

The Town Board and the Planning Board met jointly on Thursday, Aug. 31, to try to figure out how to ensure that what they described as inadequacies in the required fire access road, site drainage and landscaping around the property are addressed to their satisfaction.

While the majorities of both boards said they would like to try work out a resolution to their concerns – rather than pursuing a more stringent response – different board members offered different suggestions as to who they should address those concerns.

Among the proposed recipients of communications were representatives of Amazon; 1159 Granville Property LLC, the listed owner of the property that Amazon is leasing; project engineering, planning and design consultants Kimley-Horn; Walsh Construction, which is overseeing the construction; and contractor Rozell Industries. Even among the companies, board members offered different names as their points of contact.

North Granville Fire Chief Scott McCullen suggested the boards add a representative of Amazon’s insurance carrier to the list, saying the insurer could put more pressure on the company to resolve the concerns than local government officials could.

The boards need to establish “a clear chain of correspondence” in order to make sure the person they are working with is the best person to address their concerns, said Planning Board member Justin Aldous.

The boards’ concerns include the absence of a road that could enable fire trucks to reach all corners of the property in the event of a blaze. Middle Granville Fire Chief Antonio Landon has voiced concerns that a dirt road built to meet that requirement could not carry the weight of a fully loaded fire truck – especially if recent rainy weather conditions are repeated. McCullen noted that a firefighter who recently inspected the road sank nearly to his ankles in the soft dirt after the recent rains.

The boards are also concerned about drainage at the site. The recent wet weather left about three inches of water on sidewalks around the facility, and several board members wondered what would happen in the freeze-thaw-freeze conditions that often occur in the winter and spring.

Planning Board chairman Todd Smith asked what sort of liability the town could face if icy conditions resulting from the poor drainage caused injuries or damage. The site plan includes what appear on paper to be an adequate drainage plan, but recent conditions show “there’s something amiss, obviously,” Smith said.

If the municipality is aware of the inadequate drainage, “you potentially create some liability,” town attorney Mike Catalfimo responded.

Catalfimo noted that contractors did take some steps after the flooding to address the drainage concerns, even if the boards still consider what was done inadequate.

“We still have cooperation,” Catalfimo said.

The attorney suggested the municipality continue to try to work out a resolution to their concerns by talking, rather than taking steps to legally enforce the provisions of the conditional site plan approval – a move that could be lengthy and expensive.

“You try to get a resolution that’s acceptable to both parties,” Catalfimo said. “The boards should “continue to invest in these communications,” he said.

Following the roughly one-hour public session, both boards met privately with Catalfimo to work out possible legal strategies, should they become necessary.

Amazon has received a 30-day certificate of occupancy from Washington County that will allow the company to begin operations at the site as soon as next week. If the issues with the town are not resolved by the end of that period, Amazon could seek another short-term conditional approval to continue operations at the site.