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Witnesses Dispute Aspects of Developer’s Plans For Amazon Center In Churchill

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Two expert witnesses testified Thursday night on behalf of a group of Churchill residents who oppose a proposed Amazon distribution center in their community, disputing some aspects of the plans and impact studies previously presented by project developers.

They testified during Churchill Borough’s seventh virtual public hearing on the project proposed by the Texas-based Hillwood Development Company. The 133-acre site at the former George Westinghouse Research Park in Churchill would become an Amazon distribution center. It would operate 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.

In July, the Churchill Borough Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the borough approve the project’s conditional use application.

Steven Victor, a landscape architect and land planner with Victor Wetzel Associates, critiqued the developer’s landscape plan and noted that the proposed planting locations for new trees at the site are “ineffective.”

Victor also offered suggestions that he said could be incorporated to make the development a more cohesive addition to the neighborhood, such as identifying areas and opportunities for reforestation.

Will Thornton, a principal consultant at Thornton Acoustics and Vibration, gave the council an assessment of a sound study previously commissioned by the development company.

At past hearings, lawyers for the developer argued the facility won’t have detrimental impacts on issues like sound levels. But Thornton said their sound study didn’t properly account for some potential noise generated by the facility.

“Really, the only effective way to mitigate that truck noise traffic in those communities, in this community, is to eliminate it,” he said.

Residents have shared concerns about the number of cars and diesel trucks that would travel to and from the proposed facility each day.

An eighth virtual public hearing is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug.31. The Churchill Borough Council will vote on the proposal later this year.

Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jzenkevich@wesa.fm.