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As Minnesota City Rushes To Approve Amazon Warehouse, Residents Rally Opposition

Brooklyn Park in Minnesota is set to be one of the newest locations of an Amazon Fulfillment Center. But the proposed four-story, 2.6 million square foot warehouse has incited anger and concern from city residents and neighbors over how the center will transform the environment and atmosphere of the community.

Across the United States, Amazon warehouses (what the company labels ‘fulfillment centers’) have steadily popped up in rural and suburban areas as the company has grown into the online retail commerce giant it is today. According to data compiled by the supply chain consulting firm MWPVL International, Amazon currently operates at least 128 fulfillment centers in the United States, with 43 new warehouses in development.

The city of Brooklyn Park consists of around 80,000 people located just 15 minutes upstream from Minneapolis on the Mississippi River. The Brooklyn Park City Planning Commission voted against the proposed warehouse, dubbed Project Hotdish by its developer, Scannell Properties in September 2018, just a few weeks after the project plan was first unveiled.

At the vote, 31 residents gave testimony over concerns they had with the project. The city council will have final say on whether the project moves forward with a vote planned for November 26. Brooklyn Park Mayor Jeffrey Lunder noted City Council members aren’t legally permitted to reveal their stances on the proposal prior to the vote.

At the moment, the proposed site is an empty field currently used to harvest pumpkins and a corn maze.

“Everything about this project is massive: 2.6 million square feet, multi-levels, operating 24 hours, seven days a week, over 5200 daily vehicle trips, over 200 estimated daily trucks, the list continues,” Laddy Tran, a Brooklyn Park resident, told Shadowproof. “An operation of this size will require a lot of resources in order to operate at its full and intended capacity. What it requires to thrive, it will take from the community.”

Concerns from residents range from increased traffic in the area, to the toll on local infrastructure, and the lack of demand for jobs in the wage range offered by positions at Amazon fulfillment centers. Neighbors to the site have also expressed dismay with the real estate value of their properties already suffering at the prospect of building a massive distribution center in the neighborhood, making it more difficult to move away from an industrial environment. Some actively chose Brooklyn Park to live away from such an area.

Jen Geisinger, who lives across the street from the proposed site, started a petition to stop the proposal.

“Our current infrastructure is horribly inadequate for the amount of traffic that this facility will bring,” Geisinger shared. “Although there are discussions about road improvements, most of those ‘improvements’ aren’t slated to happen until several years from now.  The gridlock that will be caused by this facility will cripple our roads and create terrifying conditions for our first responders.”

The petition currently has over 1300 signatures. Geisinger also started Stop Project Hotdish, a website to inform the public about local concerns to the project and direct other residents to action.

“Having a distribution center that runs 24 hours daily would bring non-neighborhood residents to the area at all hours of the day and night. Part of the price I was willing to pay for a house in this area was for peace of mind,” said Acie Matthews, one of the neighbors to the proposed project who signed the petition.

Another resident, Jenni Corbett, added, “I object to the negative impact Project Hotdish will have on the whole Brooklyn Park Community and the manner in which someone in City Hall tried to use sleight-of-hand and rushed voting to slip this passed residents before anyone knew what was happening.”

She noted the proposed site shares surrounding roads with four nearby schools and claimed the estimated tax revenue the city would receive from the project, about $5 million a year, would be offset by constant infrastructure maintenance and repair required due to the warehouse traffic.

The warehouse is estimated to bring 2500 jobs to Brooklyn Park, but with a local unemployment rate of less than 3 percent, critics don’t feel there’s a demand for warehouse jobs, which would mean out of town individuals would be commuting to and from the warehouse. The neighboring city of Champlin also opposes the project; Mayor Ryan Karasek has argued the project violates zoning rules for the site and an agreement between the City of Champlin and Brooklyn Park, which bans distribution centers.

“If this fulfillment center, the largest industrial building in the Twin Cities, moves forward, it will forever change the things I love about living here and the reasons my husband and I chose this community to raise our young daughter in,” Heather Kestly said in an interview.

“It will create a 24/7 noise and traffic nightmare, and an eyesore in the direct line-of-sight from residential areas in both Brooklyn Park and Champlin. This fulfillment center belongs in a strictly industrial area, plain and simple, and not adjacent to homes.”

Scannell Properties declined to comment for this story. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

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Michael Sainato

Michael Sainato

Michael Sainato is a Freelance Journalist based in Gainesville, Florida. His writing has appeared in The Intercept, The Hill, The Guardian, Denver Post, Truth-Out, and several other publications. Follow him on Twitter @MSainat1