Transparency urged on project

Published 10:11 pm Thursday, July 11, 2019

Speculation is rife that online selling behemoth Amazon plans to build a fulfillment center in North Suffolk on Northgate Commerce Parkway.

The available clues match. A public notice with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the facility would “meet increasing e-commerce demand.” The scale of the project suggests none other than Amazon: 820,000 square feet, 84 acres, 1,750 employees and 200 trucks. The project is being developed by Atlanta-based Seefried Development Services, which has built several other Amazon fulfillment centers around the country. And Amazon has readily admitted it is aggressively expanding its footprint across the United States.

The site, located on or near many important routes out of town and only minutes away from the Port of Virginia and the Norfolk airport, is likely very attractive to Amazon or, really, to any company engaged in distribution and interstate commerce.

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Unfortunately, assuming the company can get approval from the Corps of Engineers to disturb about nine acres of wetlands that drain into Bennett’s Creek, there will be little public say in this project.

The site, already located within a commerce park, is zoned correctly for the project. So, unlike many developments, the project does not need to get approval from the Planning Commission or City Council prior to doing anything.

There will be no public notice. No public hearings. And no way for those most accountable to the voters to stop the project if they do not feel it is in the best interest of the city.

The development would require site plan approval and building plan permit approval, but those are done administratively.

No matter who the hopeful user is — whether it’s Amazon or some other large company — we urge the city to be as open as possible about this proposal.