Amazon facility coming to Woodburn, Oregon, despite pushback
Woodburn’s planning commission approved the application for Amazon’s proposed 105-foot-tall, 3.8 million-square-foot e-commerce and distribution center Thursday despite concerns from residents about increased traffic and the impact on water in nearby creeks.
The online retailer is proposing to construct its facility on a footprint smaller than the neighboring WinCo Distribution Center along Interstate 5 on 82 of the 128 acres it purchased in April for $27 million. It said it would employ about 1,800 people there.
“Good problems will be these problems that come with Amazon,” planning commission chair Charlie Piper said. “I think Amazon brings enough positive elements to our city that it more than covers or outweighs any of the problems that are going to come up.”
Matt Hughart of Kittelson Associates told the planning commission the site is expected to be completed in 2023.
Workers have been clearing and grading since early in the summer.
Exceptions including height approved
The planning commission approved variances and exceptions including exceeding the maximum building height – which is 45 feet in the area – not extending Woodland Avenue, reducing the required number of loading spaces and a right-of-way change that will require building a roundabout to handle the traffic generated by the site.
The proposal also would preserve the existing wetlands of Senecal Creek on the northwest corner of the property, provide an additional 50-foot buffer from the road and create stormwater retention areas in the northern part of the property.
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“We kind of have a front room view of what’s going on,” said Don Shade, who lives on Butteville Road across from the site. “My No. 1 concern I’ve heard about is the water. What if they have a major rain? Are they really prepared for that?”
Representatives for Amazon responded that the stormwater would be retained and treated before it would be passed into the creek after a major storm.
Many of those who testified to the planning commission were concerned about the excess traffic.
Butteville Road, which borders the site, would be completely reconstructed. The interchange with Highway 219 – which runs along the northern border – would be converted into a roundabout to handle the traffic.
The northern part of Butteville Road would be moved a couple hundred feet to the east and the current intersection, also known as McCormick’s Corner, would be closed, eliminating the problematic intersection.
“It’s been probably 20 years since any improvements have been made other than just striping,” Woodburn community development director Chris Kerr said. “This is a significant failing intersection.”
In an agreement with Marion County, the west side of Butteville Road would retain its current rural appearance with ditches and no sidewalks while the west would have sidewalks.
Amazon also will contribute $185,000 for traffic improvements along Highway 214 in Woodburn and pay $25,000 for community outreach and shuttle services.
“I can understand their concerns with traffic,” commission member Chris Lassen said.
Amazon also will pay $10,000 for a civic art fee for the approved roundabout on Highway 219, and it will construct a city entrance sign or pay $7,500 to have one installed.
Interstate 5 impacts
A $70 million improvement to Woodburn’s interchange with Interstate 5 was completed in 2017. Woodburn contributed about $8 million to that project, and Kerr said Amazon will pay about $1.3 million of the city’s share.
“What’s a little bit unusual about this property is this development has been anticipated and planned for industrial development … for a long time,” Kerr said.
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As proposed, the interchange with Interstate 5 would be widened on the southbound off-ramp and the on-ramp would be extended to absorb the additional traffic generated.
ODOT still must approve some of the proposed traffic improvements.
In the presentation, Amazon said it would employ two shifts of 937 workers. There would be 1,811 parking spaces for them, but it will stagger start and end times so there would not be a flood of traffic at shift changes.
“Amazon, welcome to Woodburn,” Piper said.
Bill Poehler covers Marion County for the Statesman Journal. Contact him at [email protected] or Twitter.com/bpoehler.
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