That huge Amazon distribution center, at Highway 121 and Eighth Street East, was a done deal, according to County planners. But when the public was allowed to weigh in, at a virtual meeting of the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission, the sentiment was clear: return to sender.
The panel voted 9-0 against, backed by public comments and nearly 30 letters of opposition, primarily citing traffic concerns. The meeting was triggered when Amazon acquired an adjacent property with the idea of creating a 500-plus-space parking lot. While the warehouse itself did not require any new permits, the parking plan did – hence the project’s first public hearing.
With the unanimous rejection, the panel will formally advise the Board of Supervisors that the 250k sq. ft. warehouse and parking lot proposals be treated as a single entity. It also called for EIR focused on zoning, greenhouse gases, flooding, impacts on other public services, and traffic metrics.
Norman Gilroy, of the grassroots group Mobilize Sonoma, was an early advocate for a closer, public look at the Amazon deal. “It is gratifying that, in just a few days, the issue went from ‘haven’t heard about that’ and ‘probably a done deal’ to the point where more than 30 people from both sides sent in letters, many quite detailed, and almost as many testified on-line at the meeting,” he says. “The community is at work, even in difficult times. (We) will also be at work to try to ensure that this will not, as feared, be the last time the public will be included.” By the way, Supervisor Susan Gorin’s office says Amazon was not lured into the location (which was already built) with tax breaks or other inducements.
Another confirmation: The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office says that it will enforce the Covid health department rules on social distancing. Violating the mandatory-mask rule is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Nobody has been thrown in the pokey yet; Karen, are you out there?
— Val Robichaud, [email protected]