Eastsiders Rally Against Concrete Crushing Plant Plans

Eastside residents representing 13 Eastside neighborhood associations, attended the Thursday, July 13 meeting with TCEQ  at Nolan Catholic High School. We counted 300 people in attendance. White Lake Hills president Fred Fernandez introduced State Representative Nicole Collier and the staff members of the TCEQ who had come from Austin to attend this meeting.

Representing the TCEQ were: Sheldon Wayne, Office of Public Interest Counsel (OPIC) staff attorney; Amy Browning, Environmental Law Division, staff attorney; Brad Patterson, Office of the Chief Clerk; Don Nelon, Permit Review; and Elizabeth Smith, Air Section Manager, Region 4- DFW area.

 State Representative Nicole Collier opened the meeting with a prayer and then thanked Charles McGrath, president of Nolan Catholic High School, for hosting the meeting. Collier introduced representatives from City Council District 4, Cary Moon's office; State Senator Konni Burton's office; State Senator Kelly Hancock's office; Commissioner Roy Brooks' office; Congressman Marc Veasey's office; Staff from City Planning & Development, Code Enforcement, Trinity River Vision, staff from the City's legal team, representatives from Catholic Diocese Bishop Michael Olson's office, and  Alex Jimenez, president of East Fort Worth Inc.

Collier gave a brief history of this case, from last year's zoning change case which was denied with prejudice from Zoning and City Council; the Resolution passed by City Council and sent to TCEQ in opposition to the plant, and the current request for an Air Quality permit to be issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Neighborhood Association presidents representing  White Lake Hills, Brentwood-Oak Hills, Eastern Hills, Historic Handley, Central Meadowbrook, West Meadowbrook, Ryanwood, Riverbend Estates, Cobblestone, Historic Randol Mill Valley Alliance, Garden of Eden, United Riverside, Arlington Heights, and the Neighborhoods of East Fort Worth Alliance acted as moderators  during the meeting.

(While I was at the microphone asking the questions in my stack, Past President of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods, Rita Vinson, took detailed notes for me. )

The applicant had no representatives at this meeting. No officials from the federal Environmental Protection Agency were present.

 

Meeting organizers decided that written questions, asked by the NA presidents, was the most efficient way to conduct this meeting in the two hour time limit.  The written questions were gathered and categorized, multiple people asked the same question, which were asked and answered several times. (These questions and comments were also provided to TCEQ as part of the official public input records.)

The first question asked was "Why should we be glad to have this business in our part of town?" The audience groaned complaints, and TCEQ staff members did not have an answer to this question.

The most asked question was "What other factors are considered when reviewing the application?" The answer: "We only consider the air quality on the property in the application."

They cannot consider: truck pollution, truck traffic, damage to roads, economic impact, housing values, city zoning, actual site conditions, water pollution potential, etc., in their approval process; they only consider what is stated in the application and air quality on that site.

They were asked "How many applications for a concrete crushing plant have been rejected by TCEQ, and why?"

They did not have exact numbers but said "a few" had been rejected on the basis of not complying with existing standards, such as minimum distance from a home or school. (But none were rejected because of public protest.)

The TCEQ has 30 days from the close of public comments,  which was at 5:00 pm Monday July 17, to review and consider the application and approve or deny the permit. The TCEQ Executive Director, Richard Hyde, makes the final decision on the permit.

The TECQ was asked Why are you considering a plant which had been denied with prejudice by the City Zoning and City Council? Their answer: "It has no bearing on our decision."

Their process does not consider any local factors. They repeated that they have no jurisdiction over local zoning and local issues.

Staffers repeated that even if this proposed plant received a TCEQ permit, the land was still governed by local zoning ordinances and City Council. Again, grumbling from the audience. We were informed that a permit is issued for ten (10) years. The follow-up questions pertained to enforcement of the air quality.

"How does a permit get revoked?" The answer "it's a process."

First, a complaint is filed by the public. The TCEQ then sends the City's Environmental Management team to investigate the complaint. They can ask to see the records of the plant, showing machine hours of operations. If the plant is found to be "not in compliance" they receive a written notice and are told to get in compliance. There may, or may not be, an actual in-person inspection of the site or plant. The next step is to issue a fine to the plant operators. Plant operators can be fined multiple times with little impact on their permit to operate. However, multiple fines 'could' impact the renewal of the 10-year permit. The only time a plant could be shut down is IF there is an "eminent danger to public safety or environment." Their only concern is Air Quality.

We learned that the EPA set the standards that TCEQ uses to permit concrete crushing operations. Texas standards were created over a 5-year period, using scientific data on particulate dispersal, from various concrete crushing sites in Texas, and are generic for use anywhere in the state.  The application/permit does not consider any nearby air/land/water use in the approval process.

The only way these standards can be changed is if the EPA issues new guidelines or the Texas Legislature writes new laws regarding how the TCEQ functions.

Additional comments from the audience included a statement by Rita Vinson speaking as a resident of Brentwood-Oak Hills NA of East Fort Worth.  She said she attended a public hearing of TCEQ in January of last year, 2016, representing the Fort Worth League of Neighborhood Associations.  It was in opposition to the state air quality plan TCEQ had submitted to EPA for North Central Texas.  Tarrant is one of about 16 counties in what is called a “nonattainment” area in regard to the Federal Clean Air Act.  That means that Fort Worth has not met those air quality standards since the inception of that Act.

The State of Texas, acting by and through the TCEQ, develops an air quality plan for North Central Texas about every 5 years, and it has never been effective in developing a plan to meet those standards.  She stated it was her understanding that TCEQ has still not received approval from EPA for its January 2016 air quality plan.  She asked if that were true.

Don Nelon, TCEQ Permit Reviewer, said he believed that was correct.

Vinson added that the Fort Worth League of Neighborhood Associations has been very involved in air quality issues for more than 3 years, and it submitted a resolution last year in opposition to the zoning application for this concrete crushing plant.  The League’s board has worked with the University of North Texas Health Science Center as citizen members of its air quality team.  The audience might like to know that they have worked to develop low-cost air quality monitors that can be used to measure air quality at the neighborhood level in real time.  TCEQ has expensive monitors, but they report at a regional level, not in a specific neighborhood.  UNTHSC has applied for grants to develop prototypes and pilot programs.

Her concluding point was that TCEQ has been ineffective in achieving an acceptable, safe level of air quality in Fort Worth for 28 years.

Several residents mentioned the published study that Cook Children's Hospital conducted, that clearly showed a significant increase in the number of children suffering respiratory illnesses and asthma are located in the immediate vicinity of existing Fort Worth concrete crushing plants. TCEQ said "in order to be considered, these studies need to be included with the official written comments."

Stacey Pierce, Executive Director of Streams and Valleys, provided facts about local growth and development along the Trinity River and the regional plans for hike & bike trails connecting Fort Worth to Dallas. River development is unmatched in the US, and  the health of the Trinity River affects thousands of people. "Air and water are inextricably linked, and everything finds its way to the river."

At this point, the TCEQ has not made a final decision. We have to wait 30 days for the answer, and we will not be notified if/when the permit is approved. If approved, the permit is valid for TEN years.

Many residents voiced the question why he will not consider another, more favorable development of his 400-acre property, which is strategically located near our largest city park and established neighborhoods.

So now, our focus must be on LOCAL jurisdiction and local zoning. Presently the land is zoned 3 different ways (commercial/residential) NOT heavy industrial.

Keep writing or calling your city council representative to express your opposition to the concrete crushing plant on East First Street.

Short Term Rentals Bill

As you already know, Texas Legislature special session has begun.

We know that Sen. Hancock plans to file a bill that will undermine the choices of our communities with regard to Short Term Rentals. (Air B&B type rentals.)

 It is expected that his new short-term rental bill at the Special Session of the Texas Legislature would be very similar to his Floor Amendment 4 to HB 2445 at the Regular Session, which read:

 

A municipality may not adopt or enforce an ordinance, regulation, or other measure that effectively prohibits more than 10 percent of the residential property located within the corporate boundaries of the municipality from being offered to a person under a lease, concession, right of access, license, contract, or agreement   described by Subsection (a). regardless of the homestead status of the property.

 

Sen. Kelly Hancock plans to file another bill in special session that undermines the property rights of Texas neighbors. Call him to let him know where you stand.

For that reason, we need to be very proactive in letting him know that this is unacceptable to Texas neighbors who are concerned about the uncertainty that such a bill will cause in many neighborhoods.

Call Sen. Hancock today to let him know where YOU stand. His phone number is 512-463-0109.

If you live in Sen. Hancock's district–Arlington, Irving, North Richland Hills, Grand Prairie, Keller, Euless–be doubly sure to call him, and make it clear that you oppose bills that undermine the decisions made by communities in his own district.

 Feel free to use these talking points when you call:

 

    Hello. My name is ________ .

    I am calling to say that I oppose any bill that restricts the ability of local communities and neighborhoods to address short term rentals.

    I opposed SB 451 during the regular session, and my position has not changed.

    Bills like this create uncertainty in our communities, which could harm normal, hard-working Texans with families—many of whom purchased their homes based on the residential character of the surrounding neighborhood.

    This could commercialize quiet neighborhoods, without receiving any local input.

    I can speak from personal experience on this issue… [INSERT YOUR OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH STR’S].

    Also, as a matter of principle, this type of bill undermines choices that are inherently local, like residential zoning.  It’s a one-size-fits-all solution, but every Texas neighborhood is different.

    Let Texas communities decide what is best for them: Do not file or support a bill that undermines our ability to address short term rentals at the neighborhood level.

Sincerely,

 

Texas Neighbors for Property Rights

 

For the constituents of Texas Sen. Kelly Hancock, D-9:  You may call either of his offices:

 512-463-0109   Capitol Office, Austin, TX

 817-514-3804   District 9 Office, North Richland Hills, TX

As described in the "talking points" above, there are numerous reasons for neighborhood organizations to oppose the bill he is expected to reintroduce at the Special Session of the Texas Legislature.  And it is not the first time the state has tried to--and sometimes succeeded in--usurping local control and nullifying local ordinances (e.g. fracking in Denton.)

Fort Worth still growing, continues to be 16th largest city in Texas

Posted July 17, 2017– Fort Worth’s population is 854,113, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates. That makes Cowtown the 16th largest city in the country, with 12,062 more residents than Charlotte, N.C., as of July 1, 2016.

Fort Worth’s ranking has remained consistent at 16th since 2010, except for one year when Fort Worth ranked 17th.

While Fort Worth added more than 109,140 people since the 2010 Census base estimate, Austin is the fastest growing large city (more than 500,000 population), having added just over 136,845 people.

Other Texas cities in the top 20:

    Houston, at No. 4, has 2,303,482 residents.

    San Antonio, at No. 7, has 1,492,510 residents.

    Dallas, at No. 9, has 1,317,929 residents.

    Austin, at No. 11, has 947,890 residents.

    El Paso, at No. 20, has 693,080 residents.

Keep kids safe from the dangers of hot cars

Posted June 29, 2017 – Triple-digit temperatures have arrived in North Texas and, tragically, so has one of the hazards of summer — kids in hot cars. So far this year, seven children have died in hot cars in Texas.

Consider these statistics:

  • On average, 37 children die across the U.S. from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside vehicles.
  • 87 percent of these deaths are children under 3.
  • 55 percent of these children were left in the car unknowingly; 28 percent got into an unlocked car.
  • Even with windows cracked, the interior temperature in a car can get to 125 degrees F in minutes.
  • Even the best parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car. The end result can be injury or death.

Here are some tips to help keep kids safe:

  • Create a reminder to check the back seat.
  • Put something you’ll need, like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case, in the back seat so that you have to open the back door to retrieve that item every time you park.
  • Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.
  • Keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children.
  • Use technology. Apps like WAZE have child reminders when you arrive at your destination.

 

If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 9-1-1 immediately. If the child seems hot or sick, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.

Vote for Luca the rescue dog, our hometown hero

Luca is going to Hollywood to walk the red carpet.

The retired Fort Worth Police dog has been named one of seven finalists in the Hero Dog Awards. Vote through Aug. 30 to make sure Fort Worth is well-represented at the awards gala.

Luca’s rescue story

On April 15, 2016, Fort Worth Police were dispatched to locate a missing and endangered person. Two men had visited a large salvage yard when one suddenly realized that his elderly friend with Alzheimer’s was missing. After a brief search, he realized he needed help and called police.

Luca, a 10-year-old German shepherd, was called to assist due to his experience in water, avalanche, forest and desert searches. Luca quickly fell back into his training, and soon he alerted at an opening of brush at the Trinity River, which leads to a very steep hill followed by a steep drop-off.

A PD helicopter pilot observed the lost man in the river, stuck in waist-high mud on the opposite bank from where Luca had alerted. Officers shed their gear, swam across the river and rescued the man.

Had Luca not tracked the man’s trail and located him, the man likely would have drowned in the river’s cold and fast-paced waters.

Luca’s dedication to search and rescue shows the resilience of older dogs and how their training doesn’t go away once they retire.

The seventh annual Hero Dog Awards will be held Sept. 16 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. The presentation will air on the Hallmark Channel later this fall.

 

An invitation to our SUMMER SERIES

7 pm each Wednesday, June – August

 Theme: “Promises From God”

July 5 “God causes all things to work together
              for good”

July 12 “I will never again curse the ground”

July 19 “His precious and magnificent promises”

July 26 “He is faithful and righteous”

Join us for an hour of worship, study and fellowship

Supper is served 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

No contributions taken on Wednesday evenings

A staffed nursery is provided

LAW OFFICE OF

Renee Higginbotham-Brooks

5601 Bridge Street, Suite 300, Fort Worth, TX 76112

(817) 334-0106 office

www.rhbrookslawoffice.com

email: brooks99@sbcglobal.net

 

Over 30 years experience in:

• Auto Accidents, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death

• Wills, Trusts, Power of Attorney

• Probate Administration

Don't choke. Stop the smoke!

Next time you see a smoke-belching vehicle rolling down the road, do something about it.

The Regional Smoking Vehicle Program (RSVP) is designed to inform vehicle owners that their vehicle may be creating excessive smoke and emitting pollutants that are harmful to people’s health and the environment. Driving a vehicle with excessive smoke in Texas is a violation of the state’s smoking vehicle statute, which defines a smoking vehicle as one that either emits smoke for 10 or more consecutive seconds and/or whose suspended smoke does not fully dissipate within 10 seconds.

Texas law enforcement agencies may issue citations, punishable by fines up to $1,000, to drivers operating a smoking vehicle on any roadway.

RSVP allows North Texans to anonymously report vehicles emitting visible smoke and pollution. Wireless users can call 817-704-2522 or, for certain wireless service providers, simply call #SMOKE (#76653). Landline users can call 817-704-2522. Internet users can complete an online form.

To report a smoking vehicle, have the Texas license plate, the city of the sighting, the date and time observed, and the cross streets traveled ready. Smoking vehicle reports must be submitted within 30 days of the sighting.

Fort Worth Public Library Foundation promotes reading with baby shower gifts

“'Read to Me,' written in English and Spanish, encourages mothers to read to their children from birth."

Earlier this year, the Fort Worth Public Library Foundation rolled out a new literacy initiative that provides all mothers who give birth at JPS Health Network a Fort Worth Library card and a copy of the book “Read to Me.”

The next phase is called Books for Baby Showers and offers a way for guests at baby showers to provide the book and library card to expectant mothers. A $35 donation also provides three books and library cards to newborns at JPS.

“We’ve received many requests to buy the book and library card, and now this is possible,” said Leslie Oliver, president and CEO of the Library Foundation.

Books for Tarrant County Babies is a joint initiative of the Fort Worth Public Library Foundation, Fort Worth Library, JPS Foundation and JPS Health Network.

© 2016 Greater Meadowbrook News • Photographs © Lloyd Jones Photography. All rights reserved.

To Purchase Hi-Quality Film Prints of photos by Lloyd Jones, published on GMN, visit his site:

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