For decades, West Dallas
residents have shared their part of town with a shingle manufacturing plant operated by a company called GAF. It’s the lead roofing manufacturer in North America, and its West Dallas plant is the largest industrial sulfur dioxide polluter in the county, according to the state’s official 2019 emissions inventory.
Recently, GAF has proposed an exit strategy that would see the West Dallas factory cease production by 2029. The company has told the community this timeline would help them avoid disruptions to annual profits. But residents in the area say the seven-year timeline isn't fast enough and they are still negotiating with GAF to try to get the company to leave sooner.
The most recent meeting took place Monday night, when West Dallas residents unanimously rejected GAF’s timeline. A follow-up meeting hasn't yet been scheduled, but community members say they hope negotiations will continue next week.
Throughout these recent efforts, residents have considered a forced removal through a city zoning process called amortization, which would put a deadline on GAF to meet certain zoning requirements. Just a few blocks east of the GAF factory was a lead smelter plant that operated in the 1980s. The plant was eventually kicked out of the city through that amortization process.
Raul Reyes Jr., president of West Dallas 1, one of the neighborhood advocacy groups involved in the negotiations, said the amortization process can take a long time and may not yield the results the community wants. The city could apply for amortization and, if approved by the Board of Adjustment, could force the plant to cease operations. In such a case, Reyes said, GAF would be able to appeal the decision in a district court. If they win that appeal, they could continue operating. "This could take several years to resolve," Reyes said.
There's another downside to the process: If GAF decided to not contest the amortization process, there's nothing that would force the plant to pack up and leave West Dallas. It would only be forced to stop operating, which Reyes insists isn't enough.
"This could take several years to resolve." – Raul Reyes Jr., West Dallas 1
In that scenario, Reyes said, "The structure will remain on the grounds and the operation site will remain a nuisance or they decide to sell since it’s zoned for [industrial research]. Then, we have the same fiasco as Shingle Mountain
." In either case, he hopes GAF will pack up shop within three years.
He added, "With all that said, a planned and agreed exit sounds more productive to the overall health of the community, meaning that we can negotiate and secure certain securities, such as upzoning, remediation, deed restrictions and other items that would allow for the community to benefit from."
, another neighborhood advocacy group involved in the negotiations, said in a press release that it’s still unclear what GAF’s next move will be. Janie Cisneros, leader of the advocacy group, urged city staff and local council member Omar Narvaez to start preparing for the amortization process, according to the release.
“GAF has not addressed our environmental concerns and proceeding with amortization may give us relief much quicker than 2029,” Cisneros said in the press release. “Why would we even entertain a negotiation that is so insulting to our health and safety?”
Kathryn Bazan, chair of the city's environmental commission, said amortization is an option, but the community is still trying to decide whether or not to continue negotiations.
This all comes after the Environmental Protection Agency found asbestos contamination near the W.R. Grace processing facility that used to sit in the same West Dallas neighborhood. The facility was owned by the same parent company that owns GAF, Standard Industries.
GAF didn’t respond for comment by publication time, but when West Dallas residents were fighting the company's permit renewal last year, a spokesperson for the company said the operation was safely monitored and that they "take pride in our track record of safety and environmental compliance, and our involvement in the local community."