They complained to the city about illegal dumping of concrete and fill, the clearing of trees without permits, pouring concrete for parking lots without permits, the use of bulldozers and heavy machinery on toxic land, among other violations. But rather than answer their complaints, residents say, the city targeted the neighborhood with warnings of violations on their properties.
Some, like longtime Floral Farms resident Marsha Jackson, say the warnings feel like retaliation. “They’re coming after our neighbors,” Jackson said. “They told me they were going to give me a violation because I didn’t have an address on my house and because the trash can wasn’t in the back.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Jackson was having trouble getting anyone with the city to pay attention to her little southern Dallas neighborhood.
Jackson moved to her house in Floral Farms in 1995. The area was greener back then, and the air was easier to breathe, she said.
In 2018, what became known as Shingle Mountain was born. The company Blue Star Recycling bought land next to Jackson’s house and started dumping discarded shingles there. It soon swelled into a small mountain that weighed between 60,000 and 100,000 tons.
Dust from the shingles would often blow through the air, getting into residents' lungs. In early 2019, Jackson and other residents reportedly began coughing up black phlegm. Despite their pleas to the city, it took years to get the mountain moved.
Jackson also received a warning about a loose dog that was seen on her property. She said the dog isn’t even hers.
Jonathan Soukup, who works in the neighborhood, filed a complaint with the city because his business was being affected by another property. He said land next to his property was being improperly raised, which could cause runoff to his greenhouses and affect his business. The problem still hasn’t been dealt with.
“It’s a damn mess,” he said. “There’s dozens of problems, and someone has weaponized code compliance to make the complaints stop.”
He and his family have been working at nurseries in Floral Farms for the last few decades. His father worked as a general manager at a local nursery called Casa Flora and later started the family business Southwest Perennials.
They’ve sold over 300 different plant varieties to individuals and businesses across the country over the last 25 years. Soukup has been working full-time for his father for about 14 years.
Once called Tietze Wholesale Florist, their spot in the neighborhood has been there for nearly 100 years. The Soukups bought the location seven or eight years ago. The Floral Farms neighborhood got its name from the nurseries that have been there for the last century.
According to the city, the goal is "to be more comprehensive and provide education to residents, so that they are aware of the code prior to needing to issue any citation. Courtesy notices are not tied to a fine and are not citations or notices of violations."
In April, the city announced it would hire 34 new code employees to confront health and safety concerns, especially in areas where enforcement has been lacking. When this plan was presented to the City Council that month, council member Jaime Resendez asked, “Isn't there a balance between trying to be helpful of a community and being punitive as well?”
Meanwhile, the recent events in Floral Farms remind Jackson of her fight against Shingle Mountain. “This is the same thing they did when I started reporting Shingle Mountain,” Jackson said. “Instead of them reaching out and removing Shingle Mountain, they came out here and started harassing my neighbors, giving them fines.”
Asked why, she said, “Because we speak. We have a voice.”