MONTGOMERY — Montgomery Industrial Development Agency is considering whether to grant a tax break of nearly $20 million to a warehouse to be occupied by Amazon.
About 25 residents, teachers, government officials and local laborers expressed a mix of opinions. There also were 110 pages of written comments. The issue left board members weighing economic benefits, environmental impact and quality of life.
The 1,010,880-square-foot warehouse, which would be the largest building in Orange County, is proposed as a non-sortable fulfillment center at the intersection of routes 17K and 747.
Due to a change of ownership, a new applicant, USEF Sailfish, is required to go through the process again after the IDA approved a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement in November.
The new application offers to increase the amount of PILOT payment totaling approximately $2.7 million. Under the 15-year agreement, a 20 percent PILOT payment would be assessed during the first five years, compared to the zero PILOT payment proposed in 2018. It would provide about 800 jobs in addition to 300 temporary construction jobs.
Supervisor Brian Maher, who previously suggested the approval should be withdrawn, has changed his mind. He highlighted community benefits and programs that would be offered by Amazon.
“With the potential tax benefit I will be focusing on ensuring any environmental risks are mitigated,” Maher said.
Bill Fioravanti, director of Orange County Economic Development, said the project would bring in about $476 million in economic impact.
Resident Tim Muller, of local construction and trade unions, said local laborers need these jobs to survive, and it would not guarantee to hire 85 percent local laborers without the PILOT agreement.
However, the Central Valley School District and residents are not satisfied with the new agreement. Superintendent John Xanthis wrote in a letter that the school district strongly opposes giving multi-billion-dollar companies unjustified and egregious long-term tax abatement.
“They continue to reject the school district’s attempts to encourage them to demonstrate their goodwill and willingness to partner with the district in funding educational opportunities,” said Xanthis.
Several residents spoke out at the IDA meeting. John Brown pointed out inconsistent wastewater treatment plans; Barbara Lerner emphasized the potential impact on local businesses; Don Berger is concerned about labor disputes related to Amazon in other areas; and Fred Mertz called on a comprehensive traffic study on all projects in the pipeline.
“If these companies are honest with their intentions to be strong partners, then paying their full tax is just a start,” said Valley Central Teachers’ Association President Rich Steger.