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March 27, 2023

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Plan for Vancouver warehouse has Fruit Valley residents worried about impacts

By , Columbian staff writer, and
, Columbian staff writer
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Potential neighbors of Prologis Park, a planned warehouse and distribution facility in Fruit Valley, are concerned about the development, which is slated to occupy 35 acres of land. Those living in nearby residential areas assert that their health and safety may be at risk as they anticipate the jump in traffic flows that Prologis Park would bring.
Potential neighbors of Prologis Park, a planned warehouse and distribution facility in Fruit Valley, are concerned about the development, which is slated to occupy 35 acres of land. Those living in nearby residential areas assert that their health and safety may be at risk as they anticipate the jump in traffic flows that Prologis Park would bring. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Vancouver could become one of many areas nationwide witnessing an emergence of mega-warehouses, as more than 35 acres at its westernmost point are being considered for such a development.

Industrial property giant Prologis, a San Francisco-based company, is seeking to establish a facility composed of three separate buildings, roughly 41 to 43 feet tall, totaling 561,800 square feet in Vancouver’s Fruit Valley neighborhood, according to planning documents obtained by The Columbian. The property would also host 500 parking spots.

Prologis has worked with companies like Amazon, FedEx, Sysco and Dave’s Killer Bread. The planned development, Prologis Park, is being built on speculation, meaning there are no tenants for it yet.

Although the city has not approved the development, its potential neighbors and local conservationists are worried about its impact on the surrounding area.

Neighbors’ outlook

Within Fruit Valley, there is a mesh of natural landscapes like Vancouver Lake and the Shillapoo Wildlife Area, as well as industrial space home to the Port of Vancouver and various manufacturing companies.

Not too far away, roughly 1,000 homes are scattered along streets, matched with community areas and an elementary school. It’s one of Vancouver’s most diverse communities, as well as the city’s lowest-income neighborhood.

“The residents of Fruit Valley struggle to maintain a certain standard of living with limited resources, and it would be improper to negatively impact the neighbors for the sake of a newcomer’s profit,” Eric LaBrant, Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association president, wrote to a city senior planner.

LaBrant said residents are concerned about the influx of air and noise pollution Prologis Park could bring with it. He added the development would strain the neighborhood’s existing infrastructure. LaBrant, who is an elected commissioner for the Port of Vancouver, does not represent the port in this context.

Access to Prologis Park would be from Fruit Valley Road, La Frambois Road, West Firestone Lane and Northwest 32nd Avenue.

A traffic impact study prepared for Prologis reported that the industrial development would generate nearly 2,000 daily trips. It noted that this is not anticipated to have a significant impacts to reviewed intersections and the surrounding street network.

The city is requiring Prologis to extend Northwest 32nd Avenue to address traffic concerns. Because there is no tenant identified for the property yet, the full impacts of activity there isn’t known.

“We are and will continue to work with the city and other local groups on any concerns around traffic,” said Jennifer Nelson, senior vice president of global communications at Prologis.

Still, Prologis Park presents questions to its prospective industrial neighbors, like the port, which is reviewing the project design and permitting documents.

“We are interested in better understanding how this project fits into plans for long-term freight mobility improvements,” said Ryan Hart, chief external affairs officer for the Port of Vancouver.

Environmental concerns

According to Washington’s State Environmental Protection Act, the city of Vancouver is required to determine the project’s potential environmental impacts paired with mitigation. The city deemed that Prologis Park had no significant impacts, prompting conservationists to urge city planners to issue a SEPA Determination of Significance. Doing so would trigger an environmental impact study.

The earliest a land-use decision can be issued is late January.

“Prior to reviewing the public and agency comments, I cannot determine the likelihood of changing our initial look from a (determination of nonsignificance) to a determination of significance,” said Mark Person, city senior planner.

But some claim Fruit Valley has the poorest air quality in Vancouver, which must be considered when moving forward with large developments.

“The neighborhood gets trapped into a lot of these heavier industrial projects,” said Hector Hinojosa, a four-year Fruit Valley resident. “It’s like picking on one area of the city and overburdening it.”

Hinojosa acknowledged the logic behind the facility’s proposed location, as it’s situated in an existing industrial zone and is near major roadways. However, he contended that it seems too large for the area. The future of residents’ health and safety don’t appear to be at the forefront of the project, Hinojosa said, and the development’s environmental impacts seem to be downplayed.

The facility would add to Fruit Valley Road’s current flows of rumbling traffic and would be matched with heightened rates of exhaust clouds coming from diesel trucks, Hinojosa said.

To this point, Nelson said Prologis always attempts to minimize the impact of its properties and comply with local requirements.

Exempt from city ban

The property, which is owned by Morris Realty Associates, is currently vacant and undeveloped. Morris Realty, a subsidiary of Prologis, bought the property for $11.6 million in June, according to county records.

The proposal is going through a streamlined 90-day review process, which is a common procedure, according to the city. It allows applicants to submit engineering plans at the same time as a land-use application so the two can be reviewed together, which typically shortens the process by up to three months.

Plans for Prologis Park were submitted on Nov. 4 and deemed “fully complete” on Dec. 2, meaning it was vested to the code that was effective at the time the plan was presented, according to a city senior planner. This was prior to city officials approving a moratorium on the expansion or development of warehouses larger than 100,000 square feet.

The emergency ban is the city’s response to a surge of permit applications for such large facilities.

Bryan Snodgrass, Vancouver’s long-range principal planner, said there are eight proposed projects locally, totaling 205 acres, which he told the Vancouver City Council may hinder the city’s climate goals with an increase of delivery truck traffic. He also said the facility type requires an abundance of land yet has low employment-per-acre-ratio, which may slow regional economic plans.

Prologis officials said they expect to create more than 300 jobs during the construction period, adding that the facility will employ about 375 people once a tenant’s operations begin.

Moving forward, the Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association requested that there be additional community outreach related to the proposal and its possible impacts on residents and the surrounding land. The group also called for its current Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance to be reconsidered, on the grounds the existing application downplays potential project impacts.

“I think there are some potential kind of livability issues for the neighborhood that can be pretty immediate,” LaBrant told The Columbian.