Comment of the Day: Why Is Anyone Living That Close to a Refinery?

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY IS ANYONE LIVING THAT CLOSE TO A REFINERY? Refined Homes Near Refinery“Tax policy should probably discourage residential habitation in neighborhoods near the Houston Ship Channel and encourage people to move away from them. As such, giving existing residents or residential property owners a tax cut in order to reward them for residing there or maintaining and leasing housing to other people would be extraordinarily counterproductive and stupid. Manchester in particular is a neighborhood where the City or State government should seriously consider its options with respect to eminent domain. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the region. Even the furthest north residential bits and pieces of Pasadena are better isolated from refinery activities and more integrated into their city than is Manchester.” [TheNiche, commenting on Baytown Buc-ee’s Is Here; Goodbye Mission Burrito, Hello Überrito Mexican Grill] Illustration: Lulu

15 Comment

  • Some people live where they do – say… near a health-risk like a refinery – because they haven’t access to transportation to move somewhere else. Think about it next time you push your ignition button.

  • I agree 110% with Niche on this. Look at it on Google Street View. Put the little man at East Avenue I and 93rd Street. A modest house with a kid playing out front – right across the street from chemical storage tanks. No buffer zone. No setbacks. Nothing. Yegads.
    The Manchester neighborhood should be an industrial site. In fact, it’d be a good location for a landfill IMO – instead of trying to foist that on Hempstead, (where people have said very clearly they don’t want it.). With all the chemicals the nearby refineries are spewing into the air, who would be bothered by garbage odors and diesel trucks? And there are rail lines right on the south of it – could be useful if they handle recyclables. Shorter trips for garbage trucks, too – since it’s right next to 610.
    For good measure in this, they would probably want to use eminent domain on the residential neighborhood east of John Harris park, too – turn it into a wilderness park with lots of trees to be a buffer between other residential areas and the factory- landfill.

  • I’m sure the air quality of Manchester leaves a lot to be desired. But unless there is a bunch thugs, gang-bangers, skinheads, and typical ne’er do wells hanging around those storage tanks and other parts of the Valero facility, there are worse neighbors to have. There may be some equitable deal that could be reached to resolve this, but it will depend on money and political machinations.

  • @ movocelot: It is not expensive to offer relocation assistance, especially by comparison with the process of eminent domain.

    @ ZAW: The landfill in Hempstead is being developed in a different market area for refuse. It would be uneconomic to haul southeast Houston’s garbage to Waller County.

  • I used to live in a town whose main industry was paper-making (pulp mill). The sulphurous reek in the air was one thing to live with. The aperiodic odd rain that damaged car paint was another. The water smelled like it was recycled, which it wasn’t. And yet, we all lived close enough to put up with it – I lived about 30 miles away which was barely enough to avoid this mess. There just was no choice, there was no public transit, no development you could run away to, if you wanted to escape, you had to leave, which I did. Some people have no choice in life, and don’t explain how “higher education” or “more opportunities” will fix that, that’s just a politician’s fantasy to rob you. It’s just the tough facts of industry.

  • Times have changed. My great uncle and his family lived right next door to the Alcoa plant in Point Comfort, TX – where he worked his entire life. Around WWII, the company actually provided housing and encouraged employees to live in it. Fast forward 50 years, and the company was offering ridiculous sums of money to the families to buy up the houses and move them far away from the plant. As soon as they moved their last box, a bulldozer would pulverize the building. There are still a few holdouts living right underneath the plant. They have called that place home for decades. They fear change, moving to a new place in their last years on earth, and resent being forced out of their homes. I totally sympathize. Oh and both my great uncle and aunt lived well into their 90’s, no major health problems.

  • @Niche: the Hempstead landfill is expected to get most of its garbage from Houston; not Hempstead or even Waller County. The deal up there was never about convenience and shorter haul routes. It was about misguided efforts at economic development for a rural area, and dirt cheap land for a landfill company that didn’t want to spend much.
    @Movecelot: I don’t think it’s a lack of cars or transportation that keeps people in Manchester. When I was looking around on google Earth I saw cars in most of the driveways. I suspect it has more to do with depressed sales prices thanks to he air pollution – which is why I like the idea of eminent domain (which means guaranteed fair sales prices).

  • @ ZAW: Yeah, but Houston is a big place. Really big. There are lots of landfills all around its periphery. They serve an area bigger than a neighborhood and smaller than a region. Manchester is not a suitable replacement site for a landfill that services the northwest Houston area; moreover, the value of the land would be sufficiently high that it should preclude that activity in terms of its financial feasibility. Manchester is a good site for heavy or light industrial uses or for open space.

  • It’s not like the houses around the Westway Terminal & Old Manchester are kept up, some are falling apart. Black plactic garbage bags as windows, holes in the roof. I was surprised that people live there. There are always cars outside. Do people really live there? or do they cook drugs there? The cars parked out front are worth more than the house.

  • the residents and the homes were there a long time before the refineries.

    perhaps you have an historic family homestead. perhaps you think it is charming. perhaps bill gates would not see its charm. but it is your family’s and the place is connected to your family’s history. the early residents of manchester picked a spot along the bayou that was near their churches, relatives and places of work. the refiners picked the same spot because it was near a bayou turned into a ship channel and the residents did not have a lot of power. the residents of manchester have many reasons for being there, community and sense of history included.

  • Someone please post a link pointing to recent data indicating that this is dangerous place to live.

  • Fence line emissions is a very, very touchy subject for the refinery industry. Manchester is but only one of many fence line communities in Houston. Environmental groups and regulators have been doing air monitoring in these neighborhoods for years and can readily produce reports showing all kinds of bad stuff wafting through these neighborhoods. But the same groups have had little success with epidemiological studies showing adverse health effects (cancer clusters, etc.). Industry swears that everything is just fine on the fence line and has a PR flack ready to tell anyone who will listen about all the zillions spent over the years on upgrading emissions controls. So, no one in government or industry will ever do anything to try to create a buffer and buy out fence line communities because it would be seen as a tacit admission that there are substantial health affects for residents despite regulatory oversight and industry investment in emissions controls.

  • Not sure about this “access to transportation” thing movocelot is talking about. The current Manchester bus runs on weekdays only and has about three riders per trip. Reimagining will kill this route off for good, leaving the area without transit service. Likewise a perusal of HCAD sales data will give the lie to the “families who have been their for generations” story.

    No, the residents of Manchester are intentionally choosing to liveion the shadow of a refinery in exchange for an extremely low cost of living. And as a live and let live kinda guy, I’m okay with that. It’s only marginally crazier than the young urban professionals who pay $500k for an East End lot that always smells like coffee.

    The only real justification for a Niche-style eminent domain buyout of the neighborhood is the fact that as long as those houses are there, documentary filmmakers can continue to interview residents about this awful refinery next door and isn’t it horrible that Valero subjects them to this, which creates an opening for a lefty politician to go in sock it to one of our region’s major wealth engines. Heavy-handed regulation begets more heavy-handed regulation.

  • @PurpleCity. Comparing the smell of coffee to living next to the toxins of a refinery?? It is a narrow view to only focus on the “wealth generator” of today, and not consider the indirect costs to the area. To suggest the government is even remotely close to being “heavy handed” in regulating this area is a joke.