City Hall

West Dallas Community Members Walked Out of Meeting With Shingle Factory Reps

An emissions report released by Paul Quinn College in 2020 named the GAF factory as the county's second-largest source of particulate matter.
An emissions report released by Paul Quinn College in 2020 named the GAF factory as the county's second-largest source of particulate matter. Getty Images
Community members in West Dallas have been trying to rid the area of a shingle manufacturing plant that has been there for over seven decades. This year, GAF, the largest roofing and waterproofing manufacturer in North America and owner of the factory, said it would be willing to pack up shop, but not until 2029.

It’s a deadline the community has said is insufficient, especially given the amount of air pollution the factory produces. An emissions report released by Paul Quinn College in 2020 named the GAF factory the number one source of air pollution in Dallas County.

That's why West Dallas community members want to see the plant shut down as soon as possible, according to a neighborhood plan they have created for the area. To them, seven years from now isn’t as soon as possible, and there should be some room for negotiation.

The first of a series of meetings set up for GAF representatives and West Dallas community members to reach an agreement on the factory’s exit strategy was held last week. It was not a promising start, according to some. During the meeting, GAF officials said they wouldn’t consider closing the factory before 2029. The argument, in part, is that this would give the company enough time to wind down operations in West Dallas and to resume them elsewhere. That’s when some, like Janie Cisneros, walked out of the meeting.

Cisneros is the leader of the neighborhood group Singleton United, which has been advocating for a community-led plan to determine the future of this part of Dallas. She attended the GAF meeting on Wednesday night hoping to start negotiations on a speedier exit strategy. But when Cisneros and others heard the company was sticking to its 2029 deadline, they left.

“Our families and community have suffered enough." – Janie Cisneros, Singleton United

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“Our families and community have suffered enough,” Cisneros said in a statement issued that night. “Every single day GAF’s factory is still in business is a day it’s poisoning my family and my neighbors.”

She said she doesn't believe GAF has been considering the community’s suggestions for a path forward. That’s why she said the remaining community meetings scheduled over the next few weeks would be pointless. “The only way to turn this around is for the company to negotiate in good faith with its neighbors,” Cisneros said. “This was presented as a done deal. It was not a negotiation.”

But a spokesperson for GAF said the company is hearing out the community.

“We want our neighbors in West Dallas to know that we heard their concerns, and we are working to get answers to their questions before we meet again,” a GAF spokesperson said in a statement. “We will continue to engage with the West Dallas community and very much appreciate their participation in this process.”

What GAF wants is a zoning change on the property that would allow for industrial uses until Dec. 31, 2029. The new zoning would allow for mixed uses such as retail, residential and lodging.

But Evelyn Mayo, chair of the environmental group Downwinders at Risk, looks at GAF’s zoning change plan as a PR stunt. The goal of the stunt, she believes, is to make it appear that GAF is working with the community while advocating for changes that would allow the company to sell its property for more money. Mayo also said she doesn’t look at the Dec. 31, 2029, deadline laid out in GAF’s proposed zoning change as enforceable because the property will presumably have a new owner someday who could apply for another zoning change.

“Bottom line is this zoning change is not a legally enforceable mechanism for closure, and GAF is not the future developer of the site so their design will not be guaranteed or enforced either,” Mayo said.

According to GAF, the property is zoned for industrial research, which doesn’t normally allow shingle manufacturing, making the factory a nonconforming use. The plant has been allowed to operate because it was there before this zoning, a GAF spokesperson said. The zoning change the company wants would make the plant a conforming use until Dec. 31, 2029.

The company said the zoning would stick as long as a future owner didn’t change it.

“Any future owner would be bound by the zoning that is put in place,” the GAF spokesperson said. “To undo the zoning, a future owner would have to undertake the same process that would need to be approved by the Dallas City Council.”

The company added: “We have seen how West Dallas is changing, and have heard the community’s concerns. We are supportive of maximizing the potential of West Dallas, and want to work with the City and community to ensure the future of 2600 Singleton is in line with the vision for West Dallas.”

Mayo and advocates in the community are hoping for a zoning change of their own through an authorized hearing. The city plan commission will consider the community’s request for an authorized hearing on Dec. 15. If it's approved, Singleton United wants the zoning to align with its neighborhood plan, which calls for the GAF factory to close as soon as possible. In their proposals, the group has said it wants the factory to shut down operations by December 2024.
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn

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