The city recently acquired one of the properties that once housed Shingle Mountain, a site that was owned by CCR Equity Holdings. It's a win for the community as they hope the land will be home to a new park in the neighborhood. But there’s still more to be done. They want the city to acquire and remediate the other plot of land so the community can be further protected from another environmental disaster.
Evelyn Mayo, chair of Downwinders at Risk, told the Dallas City Council Wednesday, “We urge you to work with the residents and other public and private partners to acquire the second tract of land to ensure that the residents of Floral Farms, especially those living on Choate Street, are permanently protected from another Shingle Mountain nightmare.” Mayo is also a paralegal and a fellow at Paul Quinn College’s Urban Research Initiative.
Concerns about the other tract of land aren’t unwarranted.
As reported by D Magazine, just three months after the city removed the mountain, industry returned to the site on the plot of land that hasn’t been acquired by Dallas yet. It’s owned by Almira Industrial and Trading Corp. The company cleaned up its own site, but litigation is still ongoing with the city. Dallas has the option to acquire the land only after reaching a settlement.
A week after someone had already brought a couple of trailers to the property, Almira filed an application requesting the city's approval to sort and separate metals in Floral Farms. More and more trailers were brought to the property, while residents hammered the city with complaints.
The city shut down the activity, but residents and their partners still worry about what could be done on the property if it isn’t acquired.
Kathryn Bazan, a former staffer with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s environmental assistance division, told the council, “As we saw last month, unless our city leaders begin to share their commitment to return the space to the community, illegal operators are going to try to continue to use the area without a certificate of occupancy, without proper zoning or an SUP.“
She also told the council the community was facing an uphill battle trying to get its neighborhood-led plan adopted by the city.
Floral Farms is waiting for a date to be set for a hearing that could see zoning changed in the area. This would keep residents from having to repeatedly fend off undesired development. But they’ve hit some roadblocks as the city tries to update its forwardDallas Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
Usually, the Urban Design Advisory Committee (UDAC), under the city plan commission, reviews area plans and neighborhood plans and recommends action to the commission. But in preparation for the forwardDallas update, the plan commission is acting on amended rules.
The amended rules replace the urban design advisory committee with a new comprehensive land-use plan committee to guide the forwardDallas update and to review and recommend action on future plans.
Residents aren’t sure what the fate of their plan will be after the fowardDallas update.
"The upcoming fowardDallas Comprehensive Land Use Plan emphasizes city-led planning and dilutes the implementation path and the impact of neighborhood-led plans,” Bazan said. “This is especially concerning if staff does not intend to present the plan for approval to City Council and the constituents they represent because then the people who live in these neighborhoods that the city’s imposing zoning on have effectively been denied a voice in this new policy.”
Mayo said acquiring both tracts of land and allowing the neighborhood plan to move forward would be a chance for a national environmental health crisis to become a national model for addressing environmental injustices.