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Polluting industries could be blocked from Dallas' 'Shingle Mountain' area by zoning proposal

Shingle Mountain
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
Floral Farms, the former site of "Shingle Mountain," could ultimately be off limits to certain industrial operators. That's after the Dallas City Plan Commission voted to approve a zoning plan that limits those operations in community.

Residents of Floral Farms in southern Dallas are one step closer to preventing more polluting industries from moving into their neighborhood.

That’s after the City Plan Commission voted to rezone portions of the area, which is the former site of “Shingle Mountain” — a 70,000-ton pile of roofing and other construction materials.

Residents could see the looming debris from their backyards. They also said their health has been harmed permanently from the toxic pile.

“I am here supporting the case because my community has been harmed,” Floral Farms resident Marsha Jackson said during the public hearing. “You know that we have been here constantly fighting…against Shingle Mountain.”

Jackson says she's lived in the area for decades.

Some Floral Farms residents have said their backyards have been used as a dumping ground for years.

The last time the vote was delayed, some business owners who operate in the Floral Farms area basically said they had a claim to the land and their operations had been there first.

Jerry Soukup is part-owner of a business in the Floral Farms area, a nursery called Southwest Perennials. But he supports a zoning change.

And he rejects the argument that businesses were in Floral Farms first.

Soukup has been in the area for over 50 years and has operated the nursery for ten years But he says Floral Farms' history goes back farther than that.

“The operation itself started back in 1928, before…the city took it into city limits,” Soukup said during the meeting. “There's a lot of people out there that say ‘well, I was out there first.’ No there were families there.”

Neil Goldberg operates a recycling facility in the Floral Farms area and opposed the rezoning during the public hearing. He said it had nothing to do with residents seeking justice.

“This is not a racial injustice case, its not an environmental case,” Goldberg said. “It’s a zoning case.”

Goldberg said operations like his can coexist with residents who already live in the area.

This is the third time the commission has discussed rezoning the area — but the authorized hearing has been years in the making.

“I’m reminded of the five-year journey that has brought us to this moment,” District 8 Commissioner Lorie Blair said during Thursday’s meeting. “I look at this day to say…to everybody that environmental challenges that have been our way of life, have now turned a corner.”

Floral Farms residents and environmental advocates showed up to City Hall to advocate for the zoning case — and recommend a slight change.

“I support staff’s recommendation with some minor edits,” said Evelyn Mayo, who is the chair of the Downwinders at Risk environmental group.

Mayo said the zoning plan still would allow some lighter industries to locate in the area, which goes against the goals of the authorized hearing.

“One of the stated purposes of this PD is to lessen the negative environmental impacts in the area and protect the health of residents from heavy industrial and commercial uses,” Mayo said.

“To realize this goal please remove these last outstanding industrial land uses from the PD…it would be a disservice to the community and the stakeholders to leave the door open to industrial development.”

Commissioners tried to quell any concern about the compromise in zoning options and clarified the uses, but never directed any questions over those uses to Floral Farms residents.

Ultimately, the commission voted to approve the zoning plan. Now that the public hearing is closed, the recommendations head to city council who ultimately have the final say in the plan.

Got a tip? Email Nathan Collins at ncollins@kera.org. You can follow Nathan on Twitter @nathannotforyou.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Nathan Collins is the Dallas Accountability Reporter for KERA. Collins joined the station after receiving his master’s degree in Investigative Journalism from Arizona State University. Prior to becoming a journalist, he was a professional musician.