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Environment & Nature

Residents Want To Transform Former Shingle Mountain Site. A New Policy Could Stand In The Way.

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Keren Carrión
/
KERA
In Floral Farms resident Marsha Jackson’s backyard, a white horse mills around the makeshift horse stables. The neighborhood is known for its agriculture.

Residents of the southeast Dallas neighborhood Floral Farms, a predominantly Black and Latino agricultural community, are concerned that a proposed City of Dallas land-use policy change will reduce the power Dallasites have in shaping their neighborhoods.

Floral Farms is where the 100,000 ton toxic waste dump known as Shingle Mountain was located. The city removed the huge pile of shingles after residents pushed for three years to have it hauled away

Leaders from community organizers from across the city united in support of what they call "neighborhood self-determination" and in opposition of the new policy over Facebook Live on Thursday night.

"We've been hearing this before. It's the same thing with Shingle Mountain. When it comes to our neighborhood they are just not looking at us — at all," Marsha Jackson, a long-time Floral Farms resident, said during the meeting.

Jackson lived next-door to Shingle Mountain for years. She said she fears her community's voice will not be heard with the change in guidelines.

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Keren Carrión / KERA News
Resident Marsha Jackson and her granddaughter, Kourtnie, play with the dogs that mill around Floral Farms, outside of her home, in Southeast Dallas, on Nov. 19, 2020.

The new policy would require city officials to take part in neighborhood development plans from the beginning. It focuses on area-planning over specific neighborhood planning, which organizers say is too broad.

This is different that what's instated at the moment. Current policies allow neighborhoods autonomy to partner with nonprofits to develop their own plans that they would then take to the city for approval to adopt. With the proposed policy that would not be the case — meaning Floral Farms residents couldn't present the plan they've spent years developing.

Shingle Mountain is a more than 70,000 ton toxic waste dump in southeast Dallas that was created by a recycling company. The city hired a contractor to remove it in December 2020.

Although Shingle Mountain may be gone, Floral Farms is also facing potential new industrial activity. And now, residents are discouraged by this potential land-use policy change that they say will directly impact implementation on the community's neighborhood-plan.

"When it came to engaging with the city staff with reviewing and revision, we were told that the process had changed and that there was no new process that we could take to move the plan toward its adoption," Evelyn Mayo, chair of Downwinders At Risk, said.

Since 2019, the Inclusive Communities Project, an affordable housing organization that works for equity in historically redlined and underserved neighborhoods, and Downwinders At Risk have hosted bilingual meetings to teach the community about land-use city policy, zoning laws and guide them on the steps Floral Farms must take to implement a neighborhood-led plan.

Mayo said the neighborhood is gearing up for yet another fight — but this time with more support than ever.

The more than 10 community organizations on the call this week included: Downwinders At Risk; Inclusive Communities Project; Texas Organizing Project; Southern Sector Rising; Tenth Street Residential Association; West Oak Cliff Coalition; Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation and Fair Share for all Dallas. They've formed a coalition to convince city officials not to push forward with the policy change.

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Keren Carrión /KERA News
A small statue of the Virgin Mary stands inside of a chapel in front of resident Cecilia Del Toro Garcia’s front yard, in Floral Farms, on Nov. 19, 2020.

Peer F. Chacko, director of planning and urban design for the City of Dallas, said in an email that there is a pathway to incorporate neighborhood-driven planning within the new guidelines.

"Our goal is to clarify consistent land use policy by integrating planning at different scales, eliminate contradictions and thereby ensure that land use policy can be more effectively used as a basis for zoning changes," Chacko said. "This is particularly important in situations where the city proposes to initiate proactive zoning changes to address existing land use conflicts, as is the case in the Floral Farms/McCommas Bluff area."

In June, the Dallas City Council voted unanimously to acquire the 4.3 acres of land where shingle mountain once stood that sits near the intersection of South Central Expressway and Choate Road. Residents of Floral Farms thought this may be the first step to creating their much desired park — something they are asking in their neighborhood plan.

Now they're asking council members to vote the land-use policy change down when it comes up for consideration.

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 amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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