A developer builds a gas station next to a park in Missouri City. The locals don’t want it.

0

MISSOURI CITY — Across from Hunters Glen Park, a loud commotion behind a chain-link fence has nearby residents deeply concerned.

On a recent overcast afternoon in this small town southwest of Houston, workers wearing hard hats operated huge machinery and shoveled mounds of dirt across the fence.

At the park, a different scene unfolded. The children scrambled across a grassy field and climbed onto the playground as a man stretched next to the jogging path.

Crews are building a new gas station and convenience store on once vacant land at the corner of Independence Boulevard and Grand Park Drive – and many neighbors aren’t happy to see the project rise beyond their backyard.

“It’s something that we, No. 1, don’t need, and No. 2, don’t want,” community leader Kenneth Goode said last week at the park, his voice nearly drowned out by the rattles and beeps of construction equipment. “Take him somewhere else. I am for free enterprise, but not at my expense, at the expense of my health, my environment, the value of my property.

ENVIRONMENT: Houston’s dangerous concrete plants are mostly in communities of color. The residents retaliate.

Longtime residents of a quiet, predominantly black housing estate near the park fear the gas station will bring a host of evils: pollution, traffic jams, crime, litter, underage drinking, noise, bright lights and decline in property values.

As new developments spring up in suburban Houston to cater to the growing population, some say the dispute over the gas station highlights a disregard for local residents’ concerns and disparities in health and environmental outcomes for communities of color. Meanwhile, the project developer says the new retail space will be attractive and safe.

Many residents moved into their homes in the late 80s and early 90s. They take their grandchildren to play on the soccer fields or the wading pool at Hunters Glen Park during the summer months. They want to see positive change in their community, not another convenience store.

“It won’t be the same park again,” said resident Perry Evans. “I can barely sleep at night when I think about it. … It’s just heartbreaking.

POLLUTION:
Baytown targeted more than 21 million gallons of sewage waste that spilled into mostly Hispanic communities

Goode, 65, has lived in the neighborhood for nearly three decades. He discovered the gas station earlier this year when he spotted a black picket fence while driving past the property. He was disappointed that the elected officials did not warn the inhabitants of the project and began to ask questions: “What is being built? What happens on set? »

He quickly organized protests and started an online petition to shut down the gas station. Residents lined up to oppose it at city council meetings and bought signs and t-shirts with slogans: “No gas station” and “Our voice matters”.

Despite vocal opposition, the project is moving forward with the city’s permission.

“We ask ourselves – when does our voice count?” asked Goode, a resident of Hunters Point Estates and president of the homeowners association. “It shouldn’t take all of that to do something about it.”

MISSOURI CITY NEWS: Senior executive placed on paid administrative leave pending investigation

The 2.4-acre property is owned by Eagle Joint Ventures LLC, according to Fort Bend County property records. The company, which lists a Sugar Land mailing address, purchased the property in 2010, records show.

In response to residents’ concerns, representatives from the developer showed city officials around similar projects the developer is doing and attended a public meeting to answer questions and view renderings, said Ted Cox, an attorney representing the society.

The developer of the multimillion-dollar project “is committed to making it a first-class development that will be attractive, safe and provide a valuable service to the neighborhood by selling fresh produce, groceries, fuel and other products needed by residents,” Cox wrote in a letter to the Chronicle.

The convenience store operator will comply with regulations intended to deter crime, Cox said. There will be no drug paraphernalia, pornography, vagrancy, gambling machines or gambling devices on the premises, he said.

The city last month issued a building permit to Eagle Joint Ventures after approving plans ensuring the company will comply with the city’s zoning ordinance and building and fire codes.

The site is zoned for commercial uses, including gas stations and convenience stores, according to the city. While the adjacent park is also zoned for retail, the surrounding strip of neighborhoods is zoned for residential use only, according to a city plan.

The site is adjacent to nine houses, one of which has a rear swimming pool.

SUBURB: Galveston business owners say city marshal is bullying them, point to viral video as evidence

Construction kicks up dust behind Beverley McDermott’s garden fence from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The 66-year-old joined the protests against the petrol station but said she realized there was “nothing we could do”.

“We’re just stuck,” she said. “It’s awful right now. … I’m retired, so I’m resting, and then I hear ‘Boom, boom, boom.’

The city has completed initial inspections on the property; inspections will continue as needed throughout construction, according to the city.

Missouri City Mayor Robin Elackatt was unavailable for comment, a city spokesperson said. He and other elected officials joined residents last month in a protest against the gas station, according to Goode.

ZONING: Cindie’s is suing Missouri City, saying it’s ‘ordinary retail’, not a sex business

Opponents say they plan to continue protesting and pushing the city to try to block the project. If this cannot be stopped, they said they would boycott the business and favor other nearby options for food and fuel instead.

There are three gas stations – Exxon, Valero, and Mobil – about a mile from the park, and a handful of convenience stores along Texas Parkway, including Dollar General and Fiesta Mart. The thoroughfare is also filled with fast food restaurants.

The community has few healthy resources outside of the park, said Leslie Mack, another resident of the subdivision.

“We don’t have much,” he said. “That’s a lot of fried food – a gas station just adds to the unhealthy resources we already have.”

Mack called on the city council to pass an ordinance to keep gas stations a certain distance from homes.

“It’s upsetting that there are no laws prohibiting gas stations from being built near residents and public parks,” he said.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found in 2018 that gas stations release far more toxic fumes than expected. The invisible, odorous gasoline fumes contain benzene, a carcinogen that can cause cancer, researchers say.

According to information from Air Alliance Houston, people living near gas stations may be exposed to higher levels of benzene.

“There’s a real problem with gas station environmental compliance records,” said Corey Williams, the organization’s director of research and policy. “Spills are not uncommon, leaks are not uncommon. This is something to worry about if you live nearby.

Cox, the developer’s attorney, said the station’s underground fuel tanks are double-walled and “state of the art”. Tank monitors and other safety devices will prevent leaks or spills, he said. The store operator must carry environmental insurance for the protection of the property and surrounding properties, Cox said.

Environmentally hazardous facilities like gas stations, concrete plants and landfills tend to be concentrated in neighborhoods with black and brown residents, Williams said, citing historically discriminatory practices like “redlining” and deed restrictions that once limited where people of color could live.

“When talking about environmental justice, it’s important to understand that it’s the result of a legacy of systemic racism,” he said.

Residents said they were also concerned that their children and grandchildren would have easy access to beer and junk food at the convenience store, which in turn could contribute to increased litter in the park.

HOUSTON: Fifth Ward residents urge Union Pacific to clean up rail yard near cancer cluster during protest

Cynthia Hickman, another local resident, said she can no longer bring her grandchildren to the park. She would have liked to see a school, a recreation center or a computer lab built there. Now the ordeal has prompted her to consider moving.

Hickman said, “It’s very easy to plant something in someone else’s community and go somewhere else where you don’t have to deal with it.”

anna.bauman@chron.com


Source link

Share.

Comments are closed.