Donald V. Watkins
Concrete Plant Relocation Plan Moving Forward
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on May 8, 2019
Sherman Industries has not withdrawn its application for an Air Permit from the Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) to operate its concrete manufacturing facility in a residential neighborhood in the Five Points West community.
The company feels betrayed by Mayor Randall Woodfin, who supported the plant relocation move early on. Sherman Industries presented its relocation plan to Woodfin’s office in January 2019. An internal memorandum released by Woodfin’s office shows that he voiced no objection to the plan when it was first introduced to the city on January 24, 2019.
White residents in the booming downtown areas around Railroad Park and Regions Field wanted the toxic facility moved to another location. Sherman Industries and Mayor Woodfin dutifully accommodated them. They agreed to relocate the concrete plant in Five Points West on a site Sherman Industries already owned.
Sherman Industries did not engage the Five Points West community or District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt regarding the relocation plan. Instead, Sherman Industries got JCDH to post the company’s application for an Air Permit on the agency's website on April 14, 2019, along with an abbreviated public comment period which ended on April 30, 2019.
The collaboration between Sherman Industries and Mayor Woodfin was a classic case of a sneak attack upon an unsuspecting black residential neighborhood. Fortunately for the residents of the Five Points West community, the plan backfired after Steven Hoyt and Joseph Cole “blew the whistle” on this blatant act of environmental racism.
Four months after cutting his deal with Sherman Industries to support the relocation plan, Mayor Woodfin finally yielded to mounting community pressure and joined Five Points West residents in opposing the relocation plan.
Woodfin has never explained why his office failed to follow the example set by Nashville city officials in a similar case. In 2015, Nashville killed an identical relocation plan involving Nashville Ready Mix. The company withdrew its plans to relocate a concrete batch plant to another site the company owned in northeast Nashville after neighborhood residents protested the planned relocation of the toxic plant and city planners recommended that the Metro Planning Commission disapprove construction.
Sherman Industries is pressing on with its relocation plan. In addition to feeling betrayed by Woodfin, the company believes it can win approval for an Air Permit and secure the necessary construction and operating permits from the city.
Sherman Industries may be right because Woodfin’s opposition to the relocation plan is belated, weak, and insincere. It was a reaction to the protests of community residents, rather than a passionate commitment to defeat the relocation plan.
Five Points West residents still have a long, hard fight on their hands. They cannot let their guards down. What is worse, these residents cannot rely upon Mayor Randall Woodfin as a solid ally. The clandestine campaign money has already changed hands.
Stay tuned for more breaking news on this issue.
PHOTO: Mayor Randal Woodfin put the commercial interests of Sherman Industries ahead of the health, safety, and lives of the residents in the Five Points West community. He cannot fight Sherman Industries because the clandestine campaign money has already changed hands.