The two-year fight over a proposed concrete batch plant in Acres Homes has ended, with neighborhood residents and their high-profile advocates prevailing.
Online records on the State Office of Administrative Hearings website show that legal representation for Soto Ready Mix owner Armando Soto, who had applied for an air quality permit to operate a concrete-mixing facility at 3411 De Soto St., filed a motion Wednesday requesting that the case be remanded to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) so the application can be withdrawn. The motion was subsequently granted by Administrative Law Judge Joanne Summerhays, who cancelled the preliminary hearing that was scheduled for Thursday in Houston.
The purpose of the hearing was to hear arguments against the permit. The TCEQ granted the hearing in October after executive director Toby Baker ruled that Soto Ready Mix’s batch plant application — initially denied in 2018 — met the requirements of applicable state law.
Mixing and producing concrete is a notoriously dusty process that affects air quality and the health of those nearby. According to TCEQ spokesperson Brian McGovern, Soto Ready Mix had requested a maximum production rate of 180 cubic yards per hour and planned to operate up to 8,760 hours per year, which amounts to 365 days.
“I am relieved to learn that Soto Ready Mix has withdrawn its application to build a concrete batch plant in Acres Homes,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, an Acres Homes native and resident, said in a statement Wednesday. “This is a great victory for residents who did not want to live with unhealthy air emissions, specifically particulate matter, heavy trucks and noise in their neighborhood.”
The Wednesday 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” on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“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.”
Acres Homes residents near the proposed site, where Soto Ready Mix has operated a concrete delivery and storage business for the last few years, had spoken out against the proposed batch plant because of its potential impact on the historically black neighborhood in Northwest Houston. The site is surrounded by homes and across the street from Highland Park Community Center, where children regularly play.
The fight against the proposed batch plant strengthened earlier this month, when municipal, state and federal lawmakers spoke out against it at a news conference called by Turner. Among the other elected officials who spoke at the event were U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, state Sen. John Whitmire and state Rep. Jarvis Johnson, all of whom represent the neighborhood.
“For years, communities in the Houston Region, and throughout Texas, have been fighting the placement of concrete batch plants near our homes, schools, parks, and other places that they don’t belong,” Air Alliance Houston, a nonprofit that works to improve air quality and public health, said in a statement. “The withdrawal of this permit application represents what we can achieve when residents, advocacy groups, and elected officials act collaboratively toward a common goal.”