Vote On Ordinance Change That Could Protect Heavy Polluters Delayed Until November
West Dallas residents working to have a heavy polluter removed from their neighborhood are sounding the alarm over a proposed zoning amendment that would take away their right to petition for closure.
Dallas' Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee met Tuesday to consider changes to the city’s development code that would make it more difficult for citizens to push for the removal of nearby polluters. A vote on the ordinance was delayed until Nov. 14.
The measure would require additional notice to be given to owners and tenants of a property that may become nonconforming through what's known as amortization proceedings, a process that essentially kickstarts an eviction process. The change would also allow companies to be reimbursed for revenue lost as a result of having to cease business operations.
The move is intended to align city code with changes made during Texas’ recent legislative session.
Singleton United/Unidos, the group advocating for the removal of GAF’s shingles plant from West Dallas, said the changes take aim at communities of color where the majority of heavy polluters are located.
If approved, the ordinance would also take away a resident’s right to petition for amortization and would instead require the request to come from the city council — a stipulation that is not required by state law.
“This change in code affects every resident in Dallas who has a nonconforming use that is causing harm,” Singleton United/Unidos’ Janie Cisneros said. “It is just a slap in the face to residents, and more so to BIPOC communities, since they are the ones that have these environmental issues.”
Singleton United/Unidos claims GAF lobbied for and helped pass the new law, which specifically targets the company’s predicament in Dallas but would also apply to any other amortization process in Texas.
GAF did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.
Cisneros said the city has yet to explain why it proposes to go beyond what is required by the state. After learning of the potential changes, Cisneros went to city hall to file amortization paperwork but said she was denied the ability to submit her application.
“I literally got a door locked and shut in my face,” she said. “It’s my right to file — it’s in the current code, they haven’t changed it.”
A city spokesperson told Bisnow it is not accepting amortization applications while amendments to the local development code are pending.
A 2020 study by Paul Quinn College found GAF to be one of Dallas County's top polluters, and in 2019, Parkland Hospital found residents in the West Dallas ZIP code where GAF is located to suffer a disproportionate number of health burdens, causing an average life expectancy that is 11 years shorter than the city as a whole.
Singleton United/Unidos has spent the last several months petitioning the city to take more decisive action in shutting down GAF. The company agreed last year to wind down operations but said it would take seven years to do so.
In a third-party report commissioned by Singleton United/Unidos, consultants with BVA Group used publicly available data to determine a timeline of 2.9 to 3.6 years needed to shut down the plant.
Singleton United/Unidos presented the findings of the report at Tuesday’s meeting. More than 20 residents signed up to speak in opposition.
“Do I have optimism for the city to side with its residents? I can’t say that I do,” Cisneros said. “I hope they listen and understand the position of residents like myself who vehemently oppose this change that isn’t even required by state law.”
UPDATE, OCT. 3, 4:39 P.M. CT: This story and headline have been updated to reflect that a vote on the measure has been tabled until November.