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Residents challenge Prince George's over concrete plant
"I'm concerned about the way the District Council ignored the health and welfare of the citizens in the area," Benson said this week.
The County Council sits as the District Council to hear zoning cases.
The District Council delayed voting on the special exception three times before approving it last November. In June 2008, the council suggested that additional studies on traffic and health be completed and that allegations of environmental racism be explored. And at one point during the debate, the county Health Department recommended that "any decision on the special exception be deferred until air emissions can be estimated, recommendations can be made to mitigate truck traffic by [the Maryland Department of the Environment] and air monitoring can be obtained, analyzed and evaluated." Barrett said the health study was not completed.
A spokesman for council member Andrea Harrison (D-Springdale), who represents the Cedar Heights area, declined to comment because the case is continuing.
Residents, local elected officials and attorneys who have been working on the appeal say building another plant in the neighborhood is a classic case of environmental racism.
"There is no discussion about placing this in Takoma Park, Bethesda or Mitchellville, but instead they want to build it in a long-standing black, minority neighborhood," said Edmonston Mayor Adam Ortiz, who held a fundraiser this month and collected $1,300 for the legal fund.
Cedar Heights is made up of modest homes, some dating to the early 1900s. The town sits on the edge of Fairmount Heights, the largest and oldest black community in the county, where the earliest settlers were black families who bought small plots between Addison and Sheriff roads in 1903. A couple of miles away is Cheverly, a diverse and socially active community filled with affordable homes on manicured lawns.
"It's ugly, and it's environmentally unjust," said Thelma Boyd-Nash, a plaintiff who lives about a mile from the proposed facility in Cheverly. "We get the fumes from trucks and the dust from the gravel. . . . It destroys the quality of life in our residential neighborhood. It's not a pleasant neighbor."
Jones, who routinely power-washes his house and car of dust, said he didn't know what was in store for him and his wife when they moved into a home that has been in his wife's family since 1943. "We didn't know we were moving into turmoil," he said. "I call it the 5700 Sheriff Rd. mess."