Warehouses & Distribution Center Impacts To Neighborhoods

Getting the benefits of new warehouses and distribution centers without harming neighborhoods

If you’re concerned about the impact of proposed warehouses or distribution centers, contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org for a no-cost discussion of strategy options.  Also, consider participating in a CEDS one-hour online workshop on what works with regard to safeguarding neighborhoods from poorly-planned warehouses – distribution centers.

Warehouses & Distribution Centers: Potential Adverse Effects

While warehouses or distribution centers provide vital services, poorly planned projects can cause harm to neighborhoods and the environment, such as:

  • Adverse health effects due to diesel exhaust,
  • Excessive truck traffic on neighborhood streets,
  • Disturbing levels of noise, and
  • Property value decline.

Warehouse-Distribution Center Neighborhood Impacts

It appears that the most rapidly growing high volume truck facilities are distribution centers and other warehouses.  These are last mile warehouses where goods are repackaged for final delivery.

CEDS recently studied the neighborhood impact of 67 distribution centers located west of the Mississippi River.  Of the 67 facilities, four were proposed but did not appear to be in operation yet.  Most of the 63 existing facilities were less than five years old and averaged 150,000 square feet in floor area.

We focused on facilities located within a thousand feet of homes since past research indicated that noise or other adverse effects were unlikely beyond a thousand feet.

Of the 63 existing facilities, 78% were more than a thousand feet from homes.  And of the remaining 11 facilities, there was an intervening highway, railroad tracks, or industrial area that would have buffered homes from impacts due to all but two facilities.

We contacted homeowners living near these two facilities.  Those living near both facilities reported excessive noise due to:

  • truck engine idling,
  • shouting,
  • loud music, and
  • backup beepers.

The homeowners did not report issues with excessive truck traffic on their neighborhood streets since both facilities were accessed via main roads.

We concluded that due to noise and other nuisances alone, new distribution centers and most other truck facilities should be at least a thousand feet from the nearest home and on sites where access via neighborhood streets is unlikely.  Given that most facilities are not near homes, it appears that finding low-impact locations is not that difficult.  Therefore, local governments should consider amending zoning regulations to require that distribution centers and other high-volume truck facilities locate a minimum of 1,000 feet from residential areas and on main roads (major collectors-arterials) where trucks would not pass through a neighborhood.

Following is further detail on specific potential impacts of a high-volume truck facility.

Diesel Exhaust & Health

There’s a large and growing body of research documenting the adverse effects of diesel engine exhaust on respiratory health.  In the 2005 California Air Resources Board (CARB) Air Quality and Landuse Handbook, it was recommended that homes, schools and other sensitive land use should be located at least 1,000 feet from any facility that would generate either:

  • 100 diesel truck trips per day,
  • more than 40 trucks per day with diesel refrigerations units, or
  • where diesel Truck Refrigeration Units (TRU) would operate for more than 300 hours per week.

These recommendation begin on page 11 of the CARB Handbook.

More recently, the California South Coast Air Quality Management District adopted a regulation requiring that warehouses of 100,000 square feet or more must take measures to reduce the health impact of trucks as well as other diesel-gasoline powered vehicles.  The measures include zero or near-zero emission trucks.  The Socioeconomic Impact Assessment for this regulation noted that emissions from a warehouse of 100,000 square feet or more can affect the health of those living 0.5- to 2.0-miles distant.

The Clean Air Task Force created Deaths by Dirty Diesel – Mapping the health impacts of diesel nationwide.  This interactive map will allow you to see how diesel emissions affects those living in your area.  By comparing your area with others that have higher Air Pollution from Diesel you can help elected officials and your neighbors understand why it is vitally important to encourage greater use of Zero or Near-Zero emission trucks and discourage proposals that would add more conventional diesel truck traffic.

Truck Traffic & Neighborhood Streets

Locating a facility where diesel truck traffic is likely to travel neighborhood streets can expose residents to excessive noise, air pollution, property value loss, and safety issues.  Instead, these facilities should be guided to locations with direct access onto roads that do not pass through residential areas.

Noise

The CEDS distribution center study described above documented that those living near high-volume truck facilities reported excessive noise due to truck engine idling, shouting, loud music, backup beepers, etc.  While it is possible that noise barriers or other measures might resolve noise impacts, effectiveness may depend upon maintenance or other provisions that could be difficult to enforce.  Therefore, the best safeguard is to locate new distribution centers and most other truck facilities at least a thousand feet from the nearest home.

Property Value

Traffic noise can have a significant effect on property value. A home located adjacent to a major highway may sell for 8% to 10% less when compared to one located along a quiet neighborhood street. Heavy truck traffic lowers property value at a rate 150 times greater than cars. This is because at 50 feet heavy trucks emit noise at 90 dBA while a car traffic produces noise at a level of 50 dBA.  An increase in heavy truck traffic may also cause damage to nearby homes through vibrations transmitted through the earth.

Warehouses Are Not A Light Industrial Use

According to the USLegal.com Light Industry Law and Legal Definition webpage:

“Light industries cause relatively little pollution when compared to heavy industries. As light industry facilities have less environmental impact than those associated with heavy industry, zoning laws permit light industry near residential areas. It is a criterion for zoning classification.”

The Complete Real Estate Encyclopedia contains a similar definition for Light Industrial:

“Light industry usually consists of nonpolluting users with moderate energy demands engaged in assembling products, sewing, baking, or cleaning.”

In Putting Atlanta Back To Work: Integrating Light Industry Mixed-Use Into Urban Development, the following distinction is made between light and heavy industry:

“Generally, to locate in a light industrial zone, a business must not produce any loud noises, vibration, noxious fumes, or other hazardous byproducts – beyond the property line. In heavy industrial districts, generally a business must not produce these negative effects beyond the boundaries of the entire district.”

Given that the:

  • Air pollution emitted from warehouse diesel truck traffic can harm the health of those living well beyond a warehouse property line,
  • Trucks traveling past homes to reach a warehouse can significantly lower property value,
  • Warehouse noise has disturbed nearby residents

warehouses should not be allowed in light industrial zones based on the definitions and cautions above, especially when within a thousand feet or so of homes.

Identifying & Resolving Warehouse & Other Trucking Facility Impacts

The first step in protecting a neighborhood is to determine if a proposed trucking facility is likely to cause the impacts listed above using the following checklist.

If a facility site will be more than a thousand feet from the nearest home, then adverse effects to area residents are unlikely.

Will the facility be located within a thousand feet of homes and will the facility generate:

  1. 100 or more diesel truck trips per day?
  2. more than 40 trucks per day with diesel refrigerations units?
  3. will diesel Truck Refrigeration Units (TRU) would operate for more than 300 hours per week?

If you answered yes to any of these three questions then diesel emissions may pose a threat to those living within a thousand feet.

If the facility is located on a road lined with homes then residents could be impacted by truck exhaust, noise, traffic safety issues, and property value loss.

The CEDS Development Project Impact Assessment Checklist provides a number of potential concerns which should be considered.

The next step is to explore options for designing each impact out of a trucking facility project. We call these options Equitable Solutions since they resolve our clients’ concerns while allowing property owners to achieve their goals. It is far easier to win adoption of Equitable Solutions when compared to killing a project.

Examples of Equitable Solutions we’ve won on behalf of CEDS clients throughout the U.S. include:

Defeating A Fatally Flawed Warehouse – Distribution Center Project

If a warehouse – distribution center project is so poorly conceived or sited that impacts cannot be resolved, then the only option may be to prevent approval. This goal will be far easier to achieve if you can show decision-makers that you made a genuine effort to find Equitable Solutions. This is but one of many components of the CEDS Smart Legal Strategies approach which can triple the likelihood of defeating a fatally, flawed trucking facility project for a small portion of the usual cost.

CEDS Initial Strategy Analysis Best Place To Start

CEDS offers many free resources that can guide you through strategies to preserve your neighborhood or the environment. These resources include the webpages listed to the right and our many free publications.

A number of folks find they lack the time to read through then implement the guidance on their own. Instead, they opt to retain CEDS to perform an Initial Strategy Analysis.

For a fee of $1,000, CEDS can analyze your case and identify the most effective strategy for preserving your quality of life. The analysis usually begins with the following steps:

  1. Verify your concerns regarding project impacts by reviewing actual project plans.
  2. Assess the proposal for additional impacts. The CEDS Project Impact Assessment Checklist simplifies this task.
  3. Search for Equitable Solutions that design away each impact while allowing the property owner to achieve their goals. Many of the webpages listed to the right will help you identify possible Equitable Solutions.
  4. Review the criteria for approving the project as set forth in local and state law.
  5. Compile the evidence needed to show that one or more of the criteria cannot be met based upon unresolved impacts.
  6. Research the decision-making history of the body required to approve the project. The goal is to identify factors that prompted past denials. These past examples will help you to increase the likelihood of a denial by structuring your case to show similar factors exist.
  7. Identify issues likely to generate the widespread public support frequently needed to prompt decision-makers to deny approval for fatally-flawed projects or condition an approval in ways that resolve your concerns via the Equitable Solutions identified in Step 3 above, and
  8. Identify at least one – hopefully several – attorneys with a good reputation for helping folks in your state who were concerned about similar issues.

The analysis can usually be completed within two weeks of receiving a retainer. About half the time the analysis is the only thing our clients need pay for to win.

For examples of CEDS analyses and for further detail visit our Strategy Analysis webpage. For a no-cost discussion of how an analysis might benefit your effort contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.

CEDS Uniquely Qualified to Help You Preserve Your Neighborhood & Environment

For more than 30 years CEDS has been helping people across the nation protect their communities and the environment from threats posed by development and other project types. To see a map of the many communities we’ve helped preserve click on: CEDS Case Map.

CEDS is one of very few organizations that solely helps people concerned about project impacts. This specialization and our nationwide scope has allowed CEDS to acquire a unique and extensive knowledge of technical solutions as well as strategies that have proven highly success in winning battles other thought impossible.

The CEDS network consists of more than 200 attorneys nationwide along with a long list of other professionals such as traffic and stormwater engineers, land use planners, etc. Because people (not corporations) are our primary clients we’ve learned how to protect neighborhoods at a fraction of the cost you might pay if you hired an attorney or consultant outside our network.

To learn how we can greatly increase your likelihood of success for minimal expense, contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.