Internet retail giant Amazon may be facing a legal battle in its quest to build a fulfillment center in Rensselaer County.
The prospect of 800 new jobs coming to the town of Schodack with the construction of a new million-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center isn't sitting well with some residents.
A group of concerned residents calling themselves "Birchwood Association" have filed a lawsuit challenging the town's July 2nd approval greenlighting the $100 million distribution center.
Town Supervisor David Harris: "August 2nd an Article 78 was filed by a group of people known as Birchwood Associates and several individuals against the planning board of the town of Schodack and at this time our attorneys are looking at it and preparing a response."
Defendants in the case are the town board and developer Scannell Properties. Nadine Fuda is the town's Director of Planning and Zoning. "We received their [Scannell's] application for site plan review on 3/19/2018. They are in a PD3 zone, so it's a commercially zoned site. Sales distributions are permitted in that zone."
Fuda says townspeople have been split at public meetings on the project, most of the negative responses coming from those who own land adjoining the 116-acre plot in question, located between Route 9 and I-90.
Birchwood Association secretary Jennifer Williams says among the group's biggest concerns is the fact that the warehouse would sit atop an aquifer. "The planning board approved something within four months and only looked at Scannell's version of the study and didn't do an independent study at all."
The Article 78 proceeding is a way of challenging the activities of a state or local administrative agency to the New York courts. Williams added "Our main issue is that we feel as though the planning board as well as Scannell Properties did not dot their i's and cross their t's. There was no environmental impact statement. So they did not thoroughly look at the water of the aquifer. They did not look at a complete traffic study, given the changes that they've made along the way, as well as a growth impact statement that would look at if you're offering 800 jobs, where will these people live? If you're looking to develop the town, what type of growth are you looking to develop with the coming of Amazon?"
Harris is pressing on. "There's a few steps that have to be done. Number one, the Article 78 has to be resolved, and number two the town board has to approve the extension of a sewer and water district for the project."
Scannell says it won’t comment on pending litigation.
The Birchwood group has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to pay for legal fees and hire “professionals” to further assess the Amazon project.
Harris says there will be a town board meeting Thursday with a vote likely to be taken at a subsequent meeting, probably August 23rd.
Amazon already operates dozens of warehouses nationwide. The online retailer is opening seven new fulfillment centers in six states this month. Schodack is also home to a Hannaford supermarket distribution center.