Last week, the city passed an ordinance introducing restrictions for concrete batch plants in Dallas. Under it, new batch plants will require public hearings before the City Plan Commission and City Council.
The plants are known sources of air pollutants.
Now, every new permanent, temporary concrete or asphalt batch plant will be required to go through the city’s specific use permit process. That starts with vetting by city staff to determine the appropriateness of the location. They’ll do a residential adjacency review, look at traffic effects, hours of operation and other aspects of the project.
Once that’s done, city staff puts all that information into a recommendation for the Plan Commission, which will then hold a public hearing. “That’s the main thing that’s never been done before,” said Kathryn Bazan
, chair of city’s Environmental Commission.
Then the Plan Commission and staff make a recommendation to City Council, where another public hearing will take place.
In February, Josh Leftwich
, president and CEO of the Texas Aggregates & Concrete Association, told the Observer
most operators want to be good neighbors and partners with their community. Asked about bad actors cutting corners and putting people at risk, Leftwich said: “I try not to get into good actors and bad actors. I think the state has a regulatory agency in place to oversee. The state comes and does inspections of our facilities. They make sure that requirements are being met.
"It’s hard to operate a plant and not take into account, too, all the requirements. … If people are doing their jobs correctly under their operating requirements, they will be doing the right thing."
But Bazan said there are some holes in state oversight.
Before, permanent batch plants may have been required to go through the specific use process, but, Bazan said, in many areas zoning allows concrete batch plants by right. Additionally, residents could always request a hearing in front of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding these plants, but there was no guarantee the hearing would happen.
“Through the SUP process, we can regulate and address where the TCEQ has that gap between the industry and our vulnerable residents,” Bazan said. “So, having this process where the community gets the opportunity to have a voice on what’s coming into their neighborhood is probably the biggest win out of this.”
Communities with a lot of industrial development have said they feel like they’re playing a game of Whac-A-Mole when trying to stop concrete batch plants and the like from popping up near their neighborhoods. This ordinance makes that game a little easier.
Bazan said people from cities across the state have contacted her and others to ask how they pulled off the ordinance in Dallas. Hopefully, Bazan said, the Dallas ordinance will start a domino effect across Texas.
Next week will see the first of a set of meetings regarding another phase of potential code amendments addressing concrete or asphalt batch plants. Those amendments could require buffers between the plants and residential areas, schools and public parks. These meetings will also tackle whether the SUP process should be required for permit renewals.