Pflugerville: Rezoning for 3.8 Million Sq-Ft Distribution Center Gains Early Approval
Featured Illustration (above): Seefried assisted Amazon.com with this build-to-suit development in Bakersfield, California, a 2.6 million-square-foot distribution and logistics center that was completed in October 2019. Image: Seefried Industrial Properties
By Edmond Ortiz
Pflugerville (Travis County)–City Council unanimously voted Tuesday on first reading for an ordinance allowing rezoning of a 93-acre tract to accommodate a proposed 3.8 million-square-foot distribution and logistics center.
According to documents filed with the city, the facility will stand four and a half stories tall and contain 3 million square feet allocated for mezzanine-level robotic functions, 780,552 square feet of warehouse space, 43,000 square feet of office space, and 1,706 parking spaces. Houston-based Jones|Carter is the project’s civil engineer.
The developer has requested changing the zoning of land along Pecan Street west of Texas Highway 130 from agriculture to planned unit development (PUD), specifically to support limited commercial and commercial industrial development.
Preliminary site and land use plan for the “Project Charm” tract. Image: Jones | Carter
Citing a non-disclosure agreement, Neither the city nor the Pflugerville Community Development Corp. identified the company behind Project Charm, the working title for the proposed development.
However, according to a Dec. 20 report in the Austin Business Journal, sources close to the project confirmed to the publication that Amazon.com Inc. is the company spearheading Project Charm.
Amazon currently operates an 855,00-square-foot complex in San Marcos, but if the global retailer is indeed the project owner, the proposed center in Pflugerville – if fully approved – would be the largest of its kind in Texas. In the Central Texas region, Amazon also operates a Fulfillment Center distribution complex on a 96-acre site in Selma.
The loading bays of the Amazon distribution center in San Marcos. Image: Google Streets.
Even large-scale rezonings and proposed distribution/warehouse buildings rarely attract a capacity crowd at a council meeting, but that was the case at the Jan. 14 session, as speculation surrounding a prospective Amazon development increased within the community.
Several residents expressed a range of concerns with the proposed distribution/logistics center, from lighting, traffic and noise impacts and the building’s size to the working conditions and wages associated with Amazon’s warehouses.
Neighboring resident Dorian Snider complained the massive building could “oppressively dominate the neighborhood it would be located in.”
Council was briefed on the proposed rezoning by Amanda Swor, entitlements and policy director at the Austin land use law firm Drenner Group, which is representing the project in the city’s permitting and zoning process.
Swor once let slip the word “Amazon” to identify the company leading the project, which she otherwise referred to as “Project Charm.” Jonathan Stites, Texas regional vice president of Georgia-based Seefried Industrial Properties, also addressed the council.
Seefried, which is helping to develop the property for the Pflugerville distribution center, assisted Amazon.com with similar built-to-suit industrial developments in California, Alabama and North Carolina.
A few residents expressed worry about an uptick in Amazon Prime vans that ferry items to homes and businesses. Stites said the proposed facility is not the type of building from which Amazon Prime vans are dispatched.
“This is a facility higher up in the pyramid, leading to other facilities,” Stites said. “The intent of this property is not to send Prime vehicles.”
Swor said a traffic and environmental impact analyses was performed.
Responding to residents’ questions about incentives or abatements, Swor and Stites both said the company is not seeking either in its effort to build the distribution/logistics center.
The project site is north of East Pecan Street/Pflugerville East Road and west of Texas Highway 130. Image: Google Earth.
Swor said the project involves $9 million in company-funded road and drainage improvements planned around the property, including turn lanes on Pecan Street, and a southeastward extension and widening of Pfennig Lane north of the distribution center. Pfennig would curve south at some point to provide a north side ingress-egress to the complex.
“We’ve made every effort to have truck traffic isolated as much as possible from the residential component,” Swor said.
Construction would adhere to the city’s campus industrial zoning standards. The truck dock facing Pfennig Lane will be lowered in elevation.
Forty percent of the property will be landscaped, and there would be screening of the truck court along Pfennig and the property’s northern boundary.
Additionally, there would be an 8-foot-tall masonry wall along Pfennig, and a chain-link fence with screening trees along the northeast part of the property. Base rezoning will permit flexibility in the future if a different use is proposed.
City staff recommended approval, as did the city’s planning and zoning commission in December.
“It’s an exciting project because the company takes a significant interest in being a good corporate citizen and to provide a place of employment for all levels and positions and to be basically a good neighbor and part of the community,” Stites said.
Councilmembers thanked the residents for expressing their views. They also lauded project representatives for being upfront with information and for trying to alleviate such worries from neighbors.
“Frankly, it’s very impressive they’re willing to do as much and listen as much for this project,” Councilman Doug Weiss said.
Seefried and Amazon.com finished developing this 2.3 million-square-foot distribution and logistics center in Birmingham, Alabama, in July 2019. Image: Seefried Industrial Properties
Edmond Ortiz is a lifelong San Antonian and a 20-plus-year veteran in local journalism, He previously worked full-time at the San Antonio Express-News, and has been freelancing for outlets such as the Rivard Report.