Fort Worth business wants permit for hazardous materials. The Zoning Commission response?

A manufacturing company was denied a zoning change by the city Zoning Commission on Wednesday following opposition from areas residents and questions about its compatibility with the neighborhood.

Terra-Vaults Inc. requested a conditional use permit to allow for the storage of hazardous materials on its 2 acres of land on South Edgewood Terrace, southeast of downtown Fort Worth. The land is zoned for light manufacturing.

The company manufactures precast polymer concrete enclosures and vaults for telecommunications purposes.

The company is in the predominantly Black and Hispanic community of Echo Heights. The neighborhood was deemed an Industrial Growth Center through a Comprehensive Plan & Future Land Use plan by the city of Fort Worth. Residents have raised concerns about the industrialization of their neighborhood and blamed nearby businesses for illnesses, miscarriages, respiratory problems, and deaths, though their claims have not been corroborated by a study.

Cheyenne Haddad, a lawyer, represented Terra-Vaults Inc. and asked for a 60-day continuance to gather more information about the details of the company’s zoning request.

The zoning staff recommended denying the application because “the storage, processing and/or production of hazardous materials is more intense, and therefore may not be suitable at this location due the proximity to single family zoning.”

Echo Heights resident Letitia Wilbourn attended the meeting.

Wilbourn lives two blocks from the company and is one of the leaders of the Echo Heights & Stop Six Environmental Coalition. The coalition was one of many groups that helped form the Fort Worth Environmental Coalition of Communities to fight what it says is environmental racism in Fort Worth neighborhoods.

Wilbourn filed a complaint with the city earlier this year about a smell in her neighborhood that caused headaches. According to Wilbourn, city employees said they could not detect the smell from the street but could smell it in her backyard. The city traced it back to Terra-Vault’s location and filed a Notice of Violation with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The citation states the facility began operation prior to receiving authorization through a TCEQ Air Permit. It does not state Terra-Vaults violated any laws but an investigation is ongoing, and the complaint has been active since March, according to the TCEQ website.

Wilbourn said she has not received any communication from the city since her complaint.

“They were using the hazardous chemicals apparently, before they were even permitted to do so,” Wilbourn told the Star-Telegram. “So this is a company that has shown bad behavior and no regard for the community.”

Haddad could not be reached Wednesday evening for a response to Wilbourn’s comments.

The Zoning Commission denied the company’s request 8-1.

The city council is expected to review the application either in late November or December.