Mayor Of Bolingbrook Not Happy With Amazon's Plans

Amazon Distribution Center Generic Germany
Photo credit (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
By WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Bolingbrook's mayor said he's opposed to the kind of distribution center Amazon wants to build in his village on the site of the former Old Chicago amusement park and mall.Mayor Roger Claar said Amazon has proposed building a windowless 825,000 square foot distribution center that’s 100 feet tall.  

"It would dwarf every building we have," the mayor said Thursday.

The zoning height restriction for industrial buildings in Bolingbrook is 42 feet high.Claar said that before Amazon purchased the 119-acre site on both sides of Route 53 south of I-55, it made its pitch to Bolingbrook officials. Claar said Amazon's representatives were told the land is zoned "commercial," not "industrial" as Amazon would need; the building far exceeds the height restrictions by code, and the 1,500 jobs that would be provided would not offer enough upward mobility in job description and salary for workers.

The mayor said Amazon had said it planned to pay those workers $15 an hour.There's also the issue of congestion. Amazon had told Mayor Claar there would be 200 semi-tractors a day coming and going from the distribution center.

"The 200-truck impact on the interchange at 55 and 53 would be lethal. That interchange now, if you ever drive it, is absolutely total congestion, a total nightmare," he said.Claar said the impact on the interchange would require a "tremendous amount of study."The mayor said he's already started hearing from nearby businesses that are unhappy with Amazon' plans. He said they cite the congestion and "the unsightly look" of the structure.Claar said Cox Automotive, which sold the land to Amazon, had had a public bidding process and received 18 bids.  The mayor said 17 of those developers met with the mayor and village officials about their plans or sent their plans in, but one, Amazon, did not.  It was only after Amazon was named one of the five finalists did it come in with its plans.After Bolingbrook officials told Amazon all the problems with the plans, the company closed on the $50.5 million purchase two weeks later.Amazon has had no discussions with the mayor or other village officials since, but Mayor Claar said Amazon has promised to come back with a new plan "soon." He said he's told the 100 foot height of the building is something Amazon is insisting on, but "quite frankly, I don’t see the board, the planning commission staff, or anyone supporting a variance on that."Claar said Amazon said it came to Bolingbrook, because it has beautiful streetscapes and building set backs, but the mayor doesn't see how that meshes with Amazon's proposal.

"To drop a 100 foot tower in the middle of it, 825,000 square feet wouldn’t be pretty," he said.Mayor Claar said the Amazon distribution center would be five stories high with each level being 20 feet tall. The center would be located on the west side of Route 53. He said Amazon thinks it might want to use the land on the east side of Route 53 for truck parking or repairs, something the mayor is not too keen on.

Amazon, in a prepared statement, said it’s effectively leaving its options open but did not specifically address the Bolingbrook mayor’s concerns:

“Amazon is a dynamic business and we are constantly exploring new locations and weighing a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve customers, however, we have a policy of not commenting on our future roadmap. This land purchase in Bolingbrook provides us with the flexibility to quickly respond to our future network needs. Stay tuned for more information.”