Frisco residents call for removal of long-standing companies (TX)

What does it say about a community in which new-to-the-party residents seek to run long-standing businesses out of town – or at least out of their neighborhood? That’s the case as a group of Frisco residents are calling on their city council to relocate an asphalt and two concrete mixing plants around which real estate developers along with the Frisco ISD chose to build and homeowners voluntarily bought homes.

Proponents of the move cite potential health hazards (breathing problems, headaches, reduced appetite, throat and eye irritation, cough,and increased risk of cancers) as well as risks of fire and explosion a la the 2013 West, Texas fertilizer plant incident, as reasons to move the plants. Younger children are noted as “uniquely at risk” in light that they “eat, drink and breathe more in proportion to their body size than adults.”

An online petition additionally notes “environmental contaminants may affect children disproportionately because their immune, respiratory and other systems are not fully developed, and their growing organs are more easily harmed. This means they are more at risk for exposure to harmful chemicals found outside where they play and in the environment where they spend most of their time – school and home.”

Good neighbor or neighborhood bully?

Per The Dallas Morning News, the APAC-Texas asphalt plant opened in 1982. Those with a history in this area likely remember the plants as fixtures along State Highway 121 long before Denton and Collin Counties hit their current growth trends.

The Morning News reports:

The first homes were built about a block north of the plants beginning in 2003. Complaints began soon after. But the neighborhood continued to grow. Frisco ISD’s Isbell Elementary opened about 2,000 feet north of the plants in 2004 and Vandeventer Middle School along Independence Parkway in 2012. Several businesses, including a pediatrician, a veterinarian and a hotel, have also joined the neighborhood.

Residents complain of strong asphalt odors and dust that they say trigger headaches, burning eyes, itchy throats and nausea. Asthma and allergy symptoms get aggravated, they say. Children don’t want to play outside.

Were these odors never in evidence as development occurred? Or when homeowners were purchasing their homes? If so noticeable and potential threats blatantly in evidence, might more prudent buyers have elected to buy elsewhere?

“Throughout this change in our community, the company has worked to keep our neighbors informed about our operations, and we have been responsive to their concerns, making significant improvements to our operations along the way,” Stephen Koonce, president of APAC-Texas, told the paper in an email that referenced Frisco’s dramatic changes.

Complaints lodged

Complaints have been lodged, but other than the asphault operations’ residual odor classified as unpleasant, the plants are not considered to be sources of harmful health effects.

The Frisco ISD as well as the city and state regulators monitor the situation. Under a 2007 Frisco Clean Air Ordinance, 249 odor complaints related to the plants have been filed, 79 since January. None, however, have resulted in a code violation.

With regard to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the Morning News says:

In the past year, the TCEQ has received 46 complaints about the asphalt plant. Most of them fall under the state’s nuisance law, which bans anyone from discharging an odor that interferes with the normal use and enjoyment of someone else’s property.

Proving a violation under this law is no easy task. Odors have to be judged objectively on their frequency, intensity, duration and offensiveness to determine whether a nuisance exists. Residents are urged to use the state’s odor logs to track the problem.

None of the complaints investigated in the last five years has resulted in a violation, according to the TCEQ. But on May 16, TCEQ issued a notice of violation for odors to APAC-Texas based on a compliance investigation done over four days in March and April.

APAC has until June 15 to respond with actions taken and documents that show the plant is in compliance.

The ‘bottom line’

A 1990s proposal to move the plants failed, but Koonce says it’s still an option.

“It has been our intent to relocate prior to the expiration of the current permit,” he told the Morning News declining to give specifics. The company’s air quality permit runs through 2019.

As a neighborhood north of the plants has reportedly experienced turnover, other residents are termed reluctant to move. Per the Morning News, “they bought their homes after real estate agents or builders told them the plants would be gone within a few years” and cite “close-knit neighbors, strong schools and great parks and trails” as reasons to stay.

Real estate agents, builders said the plants would be gone. That’s hardly a surprise.

And all those factors that help run up property values after these companies are run out of the area? Let’s term them about ensuring childrens’ health, not salvaging bad judgement that makes buying property in a less-than-desirable locale a more-than-risky proposition.

It is, after all, for the children

Frisco residents just approved a $775 million (slightly more than $1 billion with interest) for a bond package that includes 14 new schools. On top of an existing $2.6 billion debt load ($1.4 billion principal/$1.2 billion interest), this leaves taxpayers total debt approaching $4 billion.

Many questionable actions are sold and perpetrated using today’s “for the children” hype, an organized strategy of short-term gain and gratification to benefit one generation at the expense of those to come. And with government entities, increased property taxes generally follow.

That said, companies operating in non-hostile environments are what keep people employed. Employment funds other life pursuits including funding mortgage payments and property taxes.

Neighborhood bullies banding together to impede the legal operations of businesses that provide other neighborhoods’ livelihoods is short-sighted as well as dangerous in setting precedent that only the “right” businesses are desirable.

Never mind that the roads which lead to these subdivisions are paved with materials out of APAC or similar asphault plants. Forget that the slabs on which Frisco’s many homes and other businesses sit exist thanks to the system of concrete mixing plants that populate areas across the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Evidently the output of those plants is welcomed, but the operations are met with an after-the-fact “not in my neighborhood” mentality.

Close proximity to an airport has appeal as a great convenience, but squawking begins when someone invariably ends up in a flight path. Nuclear power as an energy source has its fans as well, but few want such plants in their own backyards. That’s certainly a fair position, but don’t then choose to move in next to either one.

That Frisco residents would rather not live by these plants is well within their rights, but to move into such an area and then start complaining is bad judgment and bad manners.

For now, it sadly seems some residents’ approach is about being bullies over good neighbors when it comes to working with long-standing neighborhood businesses to broker an equitable solution with which all can live.

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist and the editor of Watchdog Wire – Texas. As also a contributor at Raging Elephants Radio and News Radio 1400 KTEM, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the creator and online producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

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