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Dallas Megachurch Cites Environmental Racism in Move to Block Developer

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Pastor Frederick D. Haynes III of Friendship-West Baptist Church, a prominent Dallas megachurch, has filed a lawsuit against a developer seeking to construct a 200,000-square-foot warehouse near the church’s property. The lawsuit, filed in December 2023, alleges that the project would exacerbate environmental racism and disproportionately impact the surrounding community.

Friendship-West, with over 13,000 members, primarily serves a Black community in the Oak Cliff neighborhood. The proposed warehouse site sits between the church and a government building, across from a high school and a residential area with many senior citizens. The church argues the project would exacerbate existing environmental burdens and noise pollution, harming the community’s quality of life.

“In a community, what effects [sic] some of us impacts all of us. Unfortunately, these days that is more of an idiom than a truism,” the lawsuit, which lists Friendship-West Baptist Church as the plaintiff, states.

NBC DFW-TV reported that Haynes, who recently replaced the Rev. Jesse Jackson as president and CEO of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, “said a truck yard in the neighborhood is environmental racism.” The senior pastor said the area “has been a victim” of environmental racism in the past.

Environmental racism is tied to a pattern of placing polluting facilities in minority communities, which has historically disproportionately impacted majority Black neighborhoods.

The developer, Stonelake Capital Partners, maintains the project complies with all zoning regulations and will create jobs in the area. They argue the lawsuit is an attempt to circumvent the established permitting process.

In addition to requesting a jury trial for the case, Friendship-West is also requesting damages of “at least $500,000 for the loss of quiet enjoyment and decrease in property value of” the church’s property “as well as lost opportunity” to develop its property “in a manner consistent with the community’s needs and concerns.”

The case highlights the ongoing debate about development and its impact on communities, particularly in areas with historical burdens of environmental injustice.

This case could set a precedent for future development projects in Dallas and beyond, raising important questions about zoning, community voice, and environmental equity.

Judge Aiesha Redmond is the judge reviewing the case. There is no set time for when Redmond might issue a ruling.

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