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Development & Transportation

Churchill Officials Recommend Approval For E-Commerce Warehouse Despite Community Pushback

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David Zalubowski
/
AP
A proposed development in Churchill would turn the former George Westinghouse Research Park into an e-commerce distribution center, which is widely believed to be for Amazon.

Early Thursday morning, the Churchill Borough Planning Commission recommended the borough approve a conditional use application to turn the former George Westinghouse Research Park in Churchill into an e-commerce distribution center. The center is widely believed to be for retail giant Amazon.

Hillwood Development Company, a Texas-based real estate developer founded by Ross Perot Jr., is leading the development and submitted the conditional use application for the project.

Some residents are unhappy with the decision. They said the development would increase traffic and noise in the primarily residential Churchill area. Over 300 semi-trucks, cars, and other vehicles are expected to enter and exit the site each day.

The development could also have long-term impacts on the environment, residents said. Many semi-trucks use diesel fuel, which residents said could contribute to air pollution and cause health problems such as asthma. Hillwood’s proposed plan also calls for the removal of hundreds of mature trees, which the company says they would replace with saplings in the future.

“I don’t approve of how they’re doing this or what they’re doing,” said Cathy Bordner, a Churchill resident who opposes the development.

Bordner said residents are concerned about the format of the hearings, which are taking place virtually. They worry that people who are not tech savvy or do not have regular internet access will miss out on the chance to share their thoughts on the development.

“We feel like we should be in person. We feel that our borough council should face the residents of the community and hear us and see us without any technical difficulties preventing people from communicating clearly,” she said.

Bordner and other residents protested outside of the Churchill Borough building last night before the Planning Commission meeting, asking that the next public hearing be held in person. The hearing is still scheduled to be held virtually.

Neither Hillwood Development Company nor Churchill Borough officials responded to a request for comment.

The Churchill Borough Council will hold a public hearing on the project on July 19. They will vote on whether or not to approve the proposal later this year.