Monday, August 15, 2022 Aug 15, 2022
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Marsha Jackson’s Neighbors Are Now Metal and Dust, Not Shingles

The story of Floral Farms' fight for environmental justice didn't end with Shingle Mountain being hauled off. Nor did it end when industry began operating shortly after those shingles were taken to the dump
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Courtesy of Realtyhop

If you thought the neighbors who lived near Shingle Mountain would catch a break after the operator was forced out and the illegal dump was hauled away, you would be wrong. The mountain may be in the nearby McCommas Bluff Landfill, but neighbors in Floral Farms say plenty of issues still exist.

Take, for instance, Marsha Jackson’s neighbor. The infamous mountain of shingles sat on two lots bisected by a creek. The city acquired the larger lot and hauled off the shingles, but Almira Industrial, the Irving-based company that owns the second lot at 9505 S. Central Expressway, did its own remediation. That kept it out of the city’s litigation. And it started operating again quickly after the shingles were taken to the dump.

In May 2021, Almira applied for a certificate of occupancy and claimed it would use the land for, “Machinery, Heavy Equipment, or Truck Sales & Service.” It stated it planned to “sort out and separate Metals to supply to mills, trading companies and export.”

It’s the latter “sort out and separate” part that is the bone of contention. The land is zoned for industrial research, not metal salvage, and there is no specific use permit issued that would override that zoning.

Almira received a certificate of occupancy—which allows it to operate—in January 2022, but it specifically says that no recycling can happen on the site. However, neighbors say that the company is now operating as a metal salvage site, churning up a lot of dust and air pollution in the process. 

Jackson, the neighbor directly next door, says it is not surprising to her that the company appears to not be complying with its CO. Blue Star Recycling, the creator of Shingle Mountain, had the exact same CO while it was piling up shingles. She had complained with the city early on about Almira, too.

“We went through this with them last year,” she said. “They gave them almost a whole year all the way up to, I think it was April when they gave them the CO—I don’t know why they did because they’re so close to the house. Ever since then, it has always been one thing after another, and I constantly tell the city that, you know, once y’all let these people in here, they’re gonna always stay in here.”

Jackson and her lawyers, Mike Daniels and Laura Beshara, point to Almira’s website, which lists their business address as 9515 S. Central Expressway, and its numerous references to metal salvage and recycling. It doesn’t mention anything about selling trucks or servicing them. “A license from the state is required for truck sales and Almira has no such license,” the two wrote in a letter to City Manager T.C. Broadnax. (Almira has never provided comment to the media, and that didn’t change on Friday.)

Jackson says she’s asked the city’s Office of Environmental Quality and Sustainability to address the dust and traffic she says Almira is generating. We also reached out to the city’s development services department to find out the process that was followed to award the company its CO, but have not received a response.

Jackson, understandably, is frustrated. She said repeated calls to 311 to report the activity hasn’t worked well—often city staff will show up in the neighborhood to investigate and the entire operation will stop until staff leaves again. 

“This is the issue that we see with the city of Dallas—this is also what happened with Shingle Mountain, when we kept calling and reporting,” she said. “And that’s the frustration I have with Almira, because I have videos of that dust, of them working over there and they (city staff) tell me that they have to see it themselves. They’ll never see it themselves because when they see the city car or an unmarked car, they stop working. I’m just frustrated and worried.”

Almira has been cited twice so far this summer, and has been given an Aug. 8 deadline for addressing the items they were cited for, a person familiar with the issue said on background. 

Jackson and her neighbors are lobbying for a zoning change that would make it harder for operators like Almira to set up shop in their neighborhood, but that would require an authorized hearing. The city says the Floral Farms neighborhood is a priority, but not high on the list—it sat at No. 12 since the list was last created in January, and only moved up to the the ninth spot today, according to a council memo.

Almira listed the property for sale this week, priced at $1.86 million for the 2.66-acre lot. That could mean that the recycler plans on leaving the area for good, but without a zoning change, it’s unlikely that what moves in next will be any better, Jackson worries.

“I wish we could get somebody to come over and buy that place,” she said. “We have history down here. We’re not just Shingle Mountain. When we talk about Floral Farms, we’re talking about nurseries—there used to be three of them here.”

The neighborhood has high hopes for a park that has been designed by the pro bono arm of HKS. Those plans have a second phase that would extend to include the plot of land Almira operates from, which would also include a small museum, Jackson said. But first, the neighborhood will need to get the city to keep listening, and (literally) act to clear the air. Or some deep-pocketed philanthropist—or the city itself—might be so inclined to buy the property.

You can see a brief sampling of what Jackson is experiencing in this video she provided.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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