Some residents of the Lionville area of Uwchlan Township hope to stop a massive, 1.9 million square foot Amazon warehouse development from being built on 237 acres of farmland near their homes.
But businesses and other residents hoping for property tax relief say adding a major employer to the tax rolls and creating thousands of jobs is a boost for the entire community.
At a Board of Supervisors meeting Monday evening, several hundred residents turned out to voice their opposition to a proposal for four new Amazon warehouses on Lionville Station Road near Route 100 and the Turnpike. Township officials had already approved another warehouse complex at Happy Days Farm just west of the Lionville Road property.
If the giant warehouses are built, residents opposed to them say they would adversely affect traffic, noise, groundwater, and the environment.
Audubon Land Development, which did not respond to requests for comment, has submitted a sketch plan. According to the township’s website, its proposal will need Zoning Board approval for a variance and special exception. In addition to the warehouses, the plan includes 1432 car parking spaces; 348 loading docks; 394 trailer parking spaces; and 40′ trucker lounge stalls.’
Audubon is expected to file a revised plan based on input from township officials and residents.
Asked about tax revenue increases from the proposed warehouse development, Jennifer Shealy, director of communications for the Downingtown Area School District, did not have a specific amount.
“At this point, we do not have any estimates related to the proposed building in Uwchlan Township,” said Shealy, “The current plans submitted to the township by Audubon Land Development are just initial sketches, and there are many phases of revisions, studies, and reports that would need to be presented before the district having a credible estimate.
“However, any new commercial/industrial property generally does bring in revenue to help improve the tax base for school districts and municipalities,” she said.
The school district purchased the property in 2006 for $22 million but decided to sell it rather than build a school there, based on housing patterns. Audubon contracted to buy it for $96.25 million.
Kara VanValin said her neighbors are organizing and will fight the plan to bring the Amazon facilities to their residential neighborhood. She is very concerned about contaminants from trucks leaking into her well water and the additional truck traffic on the roads, which would not only lengthen commute times but also increase response times for emergency services.
“It’s just beautiful, beautiful farmland,” said VanValin. If the warehouses, dubbed Lionville Trade Center, are built, they would “drastically change our quality of life. I’m not even talking about property values. We are all on well water. We depend on the farmland for the rainwater to percolate through and feed our wells. Can you imagine the runoff from diesel fuels?”
The farm also drains into the Pickering Creek watershed, she said. People bought homes in a rural section of Chester County because they wanted to live in a less-developed area.
“And you just don’t expect that a warehouse of this magnitude, in operation 24/7, will be in your backyard,” said VanValin.
During his campaign last year, Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) acknowledged that Pennsylvania lagged behind other states in economic development and committed to prioritizing it. However, he did not respond when asked to comment on the Amazon plan.
State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten (D-Exton) attended the meeting and said she “wholeheartedly shares the community’s concerns” and urged residents to speak out.
She wrote in her newsletter, “We have seen here in Chester County several successful land preservation initiatives, and they all started with community members organizing. The best way for residents to advocate for the outcome they wish to see is to organize with like-minded neighbors, have a specific ‘ask’ of the township supervisors and the school board, and make your voices heard to the members of those bodies.”