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Residents in this North Texas city say: not in my backyard

Courtesy Richland Hills

Residents who opposed plans for a food processing plant to operate near their homes applauded when the city council voted unanimously to deny the request.

Tex Pac Protein wanted to move into a vacant building at 7204 Burns Street and cook meat products for use in pet food. The company also processes essential oils and protein from the meat which are used in cosmetics, crayons and other products.

Residents worried about odors from the cooking process and declining property values, said Councilman Roland Goveas, who made the motion to deny the company’s request.

“I don’t feel food processing is feasible in the business park. There are other places for this business, but not in this community,” Goveas said.

Representatives from the company said strict standards would control the exhaust generated by the plant.

But the residents who spoke were opposed to allowing the company to operate in the city.

“I am strongly opposed to this. I just listened to the company with all of their finely crafted terminology. They are loyal to their employees and shareholders,” said resident Randy Wells.

“Of all businesses, why would you want something unknown?” Wells asked the council members.

Wells, who is a cancer survivor, said he wants to be able to enjoy sitting on his front porch and that the city should “protect him and other residents.”

Jamie Zitnik, president of Tex Pac Protein and its parent company, Tex Pac Hide & Skin which operates on northeast 29th Street in Fort Worth, said the company will look elsewhere.

“We understand and respect what they (residents) were saying, but we felt that they were uninformed,” Zitnik said. However, with that much local resistance, “we don’t see the point in pursuing locating there.”

He added that Tex Pac Protein is operating a “pilot project” in Fort Worth, and that he planned to expand to Richland Hills and invest $4.5 million in upgrading the vacant building.

During the Monday meeting, Zitnik told the audience that the facility in Richland Hills is not a rendering plant, and that no cattle hides or dead animals would have been on the property. The meat is delivered in refrigerated trailers and the exhaust from cooking the meat would be treated.

But that wasn’t enough to convince residents.

Several residents and council members described driving by the Tex Pac Hide and Skin on northeast 29th Street and smelling odors in the area where the plant is located.

“As you can see, we are all very passionate about this”, said another resident, Mary Sullivan. “I really don’t think this is a good fit for our city…”

“The company talks about being a good steward. If they are a good steward, they would take this company out to the country on a large piece of land.” Sullivan said.

With my guide dog Barbara, I keep tabs on growth, economic development and other issues in Northeast Tarrant cities and other communities near Fort Worth. I’ve been a reporter at the Star-Telegram for 34 years.