After Knocking Down Shingle Mountain, A New Industrial Dump Looms Over A Southern Dallas Community
It's been about three months since the toxic waste dump known as Shingle Mountain was removed from the predominantly Black and Latino neighborhood of Floral Farms in southeast Dallas.
Now, new industrial activity is planned for the area, prompting health concerns for residents.
Shingle Mountain actually sat on two plots of land. One was owned by CCR Equity Holdings. The company surrendered its rights to the property when they paid the city to haul away Shingle Mountain. The other plot is owned by Irving-based Almira Industrial and Trading Corporation. Almira cleaned up its own site.
Both properties are zoned for industrial development.
Two weeks ago, Marsha Jackson, a resident of Floral Farms and a longtime advocate for Shingle Mountain’s removal, alerted environmental activist Evelyn Mayo that a new "truck depot" was coming in at the Shingle Mountain site.
She was right. Almira is looking to dump and sort metal scraps on the site where Shingle Mountain once stood.
D Magazine reported last Thursday that the company filed an application with the city to use its property for sorting and separating metals to supply to “mills, trading companies, and export.”
Residents Will Not 'Stand For It'
"It's wrong to have zoning in effect that prohibits you from being able to simply do simple things like improve the quality of life in your neighborhood," Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell says.
Sorrell, along with environmental activists and community organizers, hosted an event in front of Jackson's house called "¡No Más! Trees Not Trucks at Shingle Mountain." They're urging the City of Dallas to rezone the site where Shingle Mountain once stood.
At the event Evelyn Mayo, a professor at Paul Quinn College, and Jennifer Rangel, the community outreach director at the Inclusive Communities Project (ICP), placed a poster board on a table with cut outs depicting the two plots of land. They explained on Facebook Live how each plot of land was zoned.
"Area A is owned by CCR, this law here, and Area B is owned by Almira. Area A is where the unprocessed shingles were piled up and Area B is where the shingles were grounded up and left as small particulates right next to Ms. Jackson's home," Mayo said.
ICP is an affordable housing organization that works for equity in historically redlined and underserved neighborhoods.
Rangel and Mayo have been hosting bilingual meetings since 2019 with the environmental organization Downwinders At Risk to teach the community about zoning laws.
Together they've created the Neighborhood Self Defense Project. Residents of Floral Farms have developed a plan that calls for rezoning the community. And now, Dallas-based HKS architects are helping them develop a vision for its future.
"We understand that one of the ways that we can help right this wrong is to help to create a future park where the neighbors can come and play," Erin Peavey of HKS said. "There has been a major source of stress that was illegal. And we hope that Dallas will invest in this for the community."
Shingle Mountain was already hard to remove. It took the residents of Floral Farms three years to push the city to make it happen.
After a long fight for its removal in October of 2020, the City of Dallas approved a $450,000 contract with Roberts Trucking, Inc. to remove the pile of shingles and haul it to a city landfill. In December of 2020, trucks started the removal process. It was completed in February of this year.
The site was then monitored by Modern Geosciences, an environmental advisory group that works in Texas and across the U.S. and an environmental assessment has been promised from the city.
Before Almira's application, people who live in Floral Farms were hopeful. Now, they worry.
"I'm very concerned that the city has ignored this area," said Floral Farms resident Jeff, who only gave his first name.
During the Facebook Live a video with testimonials from Floral Farms residents played.
"We'd like to see more code enforcement and love to have a playground for the kids... We need the city to focus more attention on this area," Jeff said.
Frederick Douglass Haynes III, senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in south Dallas, was at the meeting. He said the city's land use policies continue to hurt the community of Floral Farms.
"Racial reckoning does not mean you replace a mountain of shingles with a trail of trucks," Haynes said. "You do not ignore the vision of a community that you have spent so much time through your zoning policies trashing because you don't recognize the treasure that is Floral Farms.".
He questioned whether city leaders are committed to equity in Dallas.
"You come back with inequitable policies that show up in your zoning policies," Haynes said. "So Dallas, wake up. Because we're already woke."
The issue of zoning also directly affects how residents see their value.
Diane Jones Allen is a professor at UT Arlington's College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs who studies environmental racism and climate justice. Jones Allen told KERA last year, zoning policies can be harmful especially to communities of color.
"Sometimes through zoning and development, certain communities are placed beside already existing hazardous development. It's about value, a community's value," Jones Allen said. "And it's something that can be fixed."
Mayo made it clear that the future of the community is at the hands of city hall. The plan for a better future will only work if city leaders take action to change the industrial zoning in Floral Farms.
"Until the city changes the zoning of these two tracts of land from industrial to [a ] zoning district that allows for a park, the residents on Choate Street will never be safe," Mayo said.
But until the city makes changes, Mayo said the community will continue to look ahead and go forward with their neighborhood-led plan.
Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at email@example.com. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.
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