Some residents upset with Oak Farms Dairy expansion

HOUSTON The Oak Farms Dairy on Leeland is just down the street from the homeowner who says the plant has been causing her headaches for years.

The economy is making cities hang on more than ever to the businesses they have. A case in point is a long-time dairy plant just east of downtown Houston. It is requesting a tax abatement from the city and without it, the dairy says an expansion of its business won't happen, and jobs could be lost. That's the argument one senior citizen who lives in the shadow of the dairy plant says she's up against.

Oak Farms has been a fixture in Houston's East End for generations, growing into a major milk processing and distribution plant where 600 people work. Its parent company wants it to grow even more with a $42 million expansion project and it wants a tax abatement by the city as part of it.

"What we're doing is creating a single compound, a single secure compound that's not as fragmented as it is today," said Gordon Harris of Oak Farms Dairy.

For nearly as long as the dairy has been here, Marcie Anderson has been its neighbor. In recent years though, she's says the relationship has gone downhill.

"Wait a minute, let me get my evidence bag," said Anderson.

The cleaning rags she holds are dark with soot and oily residue she blames on the diesel trucks that come and go from the dairy plant. Though she cleans her blinds often she says the grime and stains return.

"All the curtains I had to take down," Anderson said. "I have to keep everything covered."

She's long complained of pollution from the trucks. The city says it has monitored air quality in the area. The plans call for several city streets to be abandoned and sold to Oak Farms, including the one that runs beside her home. It's part of the tax abatement negotiations with the city and that upsets Anderson the most.

"Don't take my money and up my taxes and reduce their taxes where I'm sitting here in a filtered house," she said.

The company says the expansion should address a lot of Anderson's concerns; traffic will be concentrated elsewhere, and diesel generators used to cool milk tanks will be replaced by electricity.

Construction time though will last as long as two years.

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