By: Isaiah Robinson
HOUSTON — Acres Home residents and elected officials are celebrating a victory after a concrete mixing company withdrew its application to build in the northwest Houston neighborhood, one day before a judge was set to hear arguments over the permit.
Soto Ready Mix planned to build a concrete batch plant near neighboring residents and a community center in the historic neighborhood.
The concrete mixing company requested an air emissions permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to build a batch plant.
The residents of Acres Homes fought relentlessly to stop that, garnering the attention of many elected officials, including Texas Rep. Jarvis Johnson, Sen. John Whitmire and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee to help fight the permit.
Opposers said the plant has already caused pollution and major health care concerns for residents.
“The emissions of a batch plant are well-documented to be the silent killer,” said Sen. John Whitmire at a press conference in early January.
According to health officials, the concrete facility is producing a fine particulate matter that is 30 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and nearby residents are six times more likely to get asthma because the plants pollute the air. The particles could also contribute to premature death.
In 2019 alone, Soto Ready Mix was cited 34 times for violations, according to an official at the press conference in early January.
The TCEQ granted a hearing in October, allowing residents to make their case before a state judge.
Plans for that hearing, which was scheduled for Jan. 23, ended.
Johnson spoke to Armando Soto, the owner of the company, and negotiated the pulling of their request for the batch plant, in addition to relocating its trucks.
“It was a good move, but it wasn’t enough,” Johnson said. “Stopping the permit is good, but moving the trucks out of the community completes the victory.”
According to Johnson, the owner is looking for an industrial property to place his trucks, but for the time being, the cement-mixing trucks will be placed on a lot off of TC Jester.
The motion filed by Birch, Becker & Moorman, LLP of Austin said Soto determined that withdrawing the application was in his best interest after conversations with “interested persons.”
“Soto understands that the preliminary hearing in this proceeding is scheduled for (Thursday) and believes that the time and expense of holding the preliminary hearing would be a waste of resources for all parties since Soto is seeking to withdraw its Applications,” the motion read. “Soto has no intention of moving forward with the Application and any further steps in furtherance of the Application are unnecessary and would not be the best use of any party’s time and energy.”
The pulling of the applications has brought the two-year fight to a close.
“This was a terrible proposal that should’ve never been proposed,” Whitmire said. “I’m excited and pleased for the citizens of Acres Homes because the people won today.”