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Amazon proposes distribution center near Sonoma County airport

Online retail giant Amazon has applied to build a distribution center, including a 161,300-square-foot warehouse, on part of a 41-acre parcel of land near the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.

Permit Sonoma processed the application on Feb. 4 for the proposed facility, which would be located at 5015 Aviation Blvd., at the intersection with Brickway Boulevard, in an unincorporated area bordered by Windsor and the Mark West community of Santa Rosa, according to Bradley Dunn, a policy manager and spokesperson with Permit Sonoma.

The land is between Skylane Boulevard and Highway 101, north of the airport.

“We’re very early in the process here,” Dunn said. “This has just been initialized ... and we’re doing our homework on the application.”

The proposed project is described as “a storage, wholesale and distribution facility.”

County officials did not have information about what the project would cost to build, whether taxpayer incentives were involved or how many jobs it might bring to the region.

Some grading, lot division and other public improvements are being done on part of the site now, work that was approved for the owner of record, Airport Business Center LP, to prepare the site for any kind of general business development, Dunn said.

Airport Business Center project manager Patrick Imbimbo, who oversees all development projects for the business, could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

Also planned is an extension of Aviation Boulevard to accommodate the development.

“To have any kind of development there, you’d need to have these kinds of public improvements done,” Dunn said.

An Amazon representative would not confirm that the company has applied to the county to build the center.

“Regarding a new facility in Sonoma (County) — at this time we do not have confirmed plans to share,” said Natalie Wolfrom, Amazon’s public relations manager for Northern California.

According to the permit application, the company has requested a design review with a hearing on the development of a 181,500-square-foot delivery warehouse, consisting of 161,300 square feet of storage space, 20,000 square feet of office space and 17 docking stations.

That’s a little smaller than the typical distribution center, which is about 200,000 square feet. The proposed development would be about the same size as an average Walmart Supercenter.

The project also would include landscaping, parking, according to the application. No hearing has yet been scheduled on the proposal.

“We’re reviewing the project,” said Dunn, adding “there will be hearings” in the future.

Specifically, officials will need to consider the proposed division and merging of lots on the parcel of land and on the proposed warehouse. In addition, a design review hearing would need to happen before the proposed project reaches either the county Planning Commission or the county Board of Zoning Adjustments, he said.

Later, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will review and vote on the proposal.

Dunn said he couldn’t estimate how long it would take for the proposal to go through the approval process.

“I would not anticipate anything happening soon on this ...,” he said. “Like all applications we receive, we will evaluate the project thoughtfully.”

There are five Amazon distribution centers in Northern California, with the closest ones to Sonoma County being in Richmond and San Leandro. There are about 20 distribution and fulfillment centers in California, and more than 100 across the country.

Distribution centers are transit hubs for goods as they change modes of transport, as opposed to fulfillment centers, which store products until they are shipped. At these centers, associates pick, pack and ship bulky or larger-sized customer items such as patio furniture, outdoor equipment or rugs.

Dunn said he had no information on how much the project would cost, whether the county had offered any tax incentives or how many jobs it would provide.

Amazon facilities have been met with open arms in some U.S. communities because they provide jobs. In others, residents have opposed them for a variety of reasons, including the impact on the environment, such as increased traffic.

Amazon has run into opposition involving a proposed freight center it seeks to build along Highway 116 at Eighth St. E., on the outskirts of Sonoma, because of traffic and other concerns.

On Aug. 25, the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission rejected an updated application, denying the conditional use permit for the proposed Victoria Station project by property owner Jose McNeill.

The next formal step for that proposal, a hearing by the Board of Zoning Adjustments, is months away, Dunn told the Sonoma Index-Tribune.

An aide to Supervisor James Gore, whose district includes the site near the airport where the Amazon center is proposed, said Tuesday that the supervisor doesn’t know enough about the project yet to comment on any impact it might have.

“We know that something’s being built. They haven’t really involved our office, which is common,” said Jenny Chamberlain, district director.

Windsor Mayor Sam Salmon said the proposed site “is not a bad place for something like that, with easy access to (Highway) 101. What it would mean socially, I don’t know.”

Salmon said the town has a “pretty close relationship with the Airport Business Center” because it provides water to the complex. Many Windsor residents work there, he added.

He said he was still “trying to get a handle” on the proposed project adjacent to Windsor and what it would mean to the town, but said based on what he knows so far about its size, “It’s not something that is really going to stand out.”

“Amazon probably has a right to have distribution points. I suspect that’s an expanding part of our economy,” Salmon said. “There’s a lot of things to be concerned about. You get (a product) cheaper and it’s delivered to your doorstep but that’s something you have to look at environmentally. It can be devastating to businesses.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com.

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