Grand Island Planning Board rejects mega-ecommerce project

Jul 21, 2020

It may or may not be a ginormous warehouse for Amazon, but Project Olive on Grand Island is on pause, town officials were told Monday.

On all of the paperwork, it is called Project Olive, but everyone believes the warehouse is for Amazon, on a 145-acre site along Long Road near the I-190 where it crosses the island. It is so big, the paperwork for the project and the zoning variances it needs total 2,200 pages. The largest variance is to the height: 87-feet compared to 45-feet, far above what is allowed in the town code.

There is strong resident opposition to the project. The Town Planning Board rejected the plan Monday.

Michael Huntress, a developer whose family has long-owned the property, told the virtual Town Board meeting that the owners could build a much larger project.

"Presented to the town is an as-of-right use, but for the height of the building, as we see it," Huntress said. "And the current zoning being M-1 would allow us to build 10 million square feet on the 144-acre commercial property."

Huntress pitched a key element of the plan, that it would pay $2.5 million in town property taxes: around 10% of the town budget. At the same time, it would have 1,000 workers in two shifts and it would also produce 500 truck trips daily.

"The project fits the master plan," Huntress said. "It's something that's been talked about back to the days, Mr. Whitney, when you were the town engineer, that this place should be developed as industrial. It's on the 190. The development project in front of you, some of the neighbors are getting 1,600' of setback."

What happens now is not clear. The Town Board could overrride the Planning Board and allow the project to go ahead. Maureen Phillips leveled an attack on town leaders for not just voting it down.

"They're struggling to justify the idea that a gargantuan, 100'-tall property with 69 loading bays on an island, 8 mi. x 6 mi., in the middle of a Ramsar-designated Niagara corridor, reached only by narrow, decrepit bridges, could fly for our town," Phillips said.