“Like David against Goliath”: Potential for Cottage Grove Amazon distribution warehouse has some residents concerned

They fear the negative environmental impacts outweigh the positive economic ones
Published: Feb. 6, 2022 at 12:12 AM CST
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COTTAGE GROVE, Wis. (WMTV) - The world’s largest retailer may be putting down roots in the village of Cottage Grove.

According to State Department of Revenue Records, the Cottage Grove Business Development LLC sold 130 acres of land to Amazon just before the new year. The site is at the intersection of Highway N and TT. While the village and Amazon are touting the positive economic impacts the facility could have, the some members of the community is not entirely convinced.

According to the Dallas-based property developer, the 650,000 square foot distribution facility will bring up to 1,500 new jobs and invest millions into Cottage Grove. For some of those who live in the area, though, the retail giant is an unwelcome addition to the otherwise quiet community. They fear the environmental impacts outweigh the economic ones.

“I think there’s been a lot of wool pulled over the eyes of the Village of Cottage Grove residents,” one resident, Jeff Okazaki, said.

Okazaki is one of those concerned residents. For a few years he’s lived in the Town of Sun Prairie in a neighborhood adjacent to the proposed Amazon site. He says residents were given little notice the warehouse would be built in their backyard.

“For us to see this facility to come up was quite a shock,” he said. “A 650k square foot monstrosity, a building that is 100 feet tall... was really surprising and terrifying for our residents.”

Heather McIntosh, a Cottage Grove resident of the same amount of time, says she feels Amazon has left residents out of important conversations. She also fears those conversations aren’t addressing key issues.

“I think it’s going to change our way of life,” McIntosh said. “I’m concerned about the environmental impact that a building of this massive size will have. How will that impact our wells? That’s our drinking water. Will oil and gasoline from the thousands of cars that are going to be coming through and diesel trucks... what is the potential for any of that to leach into our wells? That’s a huge concern.”

The new facility would increase traffic to the area, considering 60 loading docks and an estimated 1,700 parking stalls are part of the plan. The village engineer does say the roads can handle the additional vehicles, however. But residents aren’t sold.

“I think we also need to understand the impacts and the harms that this may bring,” McIntosh said.

In documents available online the developer says Amazon “prioritizes implementing sustainable policies.” The developer also says they’ve been actively engaged with the village to make sure future conditions meet power, water and sewer standards. The village engineer has said there is plenty of capacity in municipal wells to accommodate the project.

The Village President and developer were reached for comment but both said it was too early in the process to provide a statement.

The project requires a second round of approvals. It will first be considered at the Feb. 16 plan commission. If approved it would next be considered at the Feb. 21 village board meeting.

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