A developer requesting a zoning change got caught in crossfire over the city’s gas well ordinance, likely stalling a planned housing development beside W.S. Ryan Elementary School because there are gas wells on the property.
The City Council voted 3-3 Tuesday night on a zoning change that would have allowed developer Bob Shelton to build about 260 homes on the parcel, instead of 150. But because the vote was a tie, the change to allow greater density could not be made.
Shelton declined to comment, but could be heard in the hallway outside the council chambers telling a city staff member that the project wasn’t feasible without the zoning change.
At issue for council members Dalton Gregory, Kevin Roden and Jim Engelbrecht was a provision in the city’s development code that allows the developer to come in after wells have been drilled and build houses within 250 feet of gas wells.
During the staff presentation, two gas wells were identified on the property, one inside the city limits and one in the extraterritorial jurisdiction. Three other possible drill sites were shown.
The developer’s representative told the council that the other leases on the property had expired and that Shelton was negotiating for surface waivers from the drilling companies to eliminate those other possible drill sites. But he could not assure the council that a driller wouldn’t come back to re-drill and hydraulically fracture the wells, known as Pitner 1 and 2. Neither has a permit on file with the city.
Council members initially sought feedback on whether, in granting the request, they could require that the presence of gas wells in the neighborhood be disclosed to future homebuyers.
Roden told the developer’s representative that the timing of the request was unfortunate, given the problems residents were experiencing in the neighborhoods at Vintage Boulevard and Bonnie Brae Street. Residents there have complained that they weren’t aware, when they bought their homes, that energy companies would come back and drill again. Some said they didn’t even know a gas well was in the neighborhood. Many homes are about 250 feet from well sites.
Some residents were at the council meeting Tuesday night for another matter and a handful decided to speak against the zoning change, citing their experience.
Cathy McMullen told the council she checked when moving to Denton from Wise County, because of drilling there, and was not able to discover the drilling that occurred further north on Bonnie Brae at Rayzor Ranch, about 1,500 feet from her home.
“I did my due diligence and I missed it,” McMullen said, adding, “I don’t think we need any more houses close to gas wells.”
Ultimately, Engelbrecht, Roden and Gregory voted against the measure. Council members James King, Joey Hawkins and Pete Kamp voted for the measure. Mayor Mark Burroughs was absent from the meeting.
At the end of the council’s regular meeting, Engelbrecht offered some prepared remarks, primarily for the Vintage and Bonnie Brae area residents and other concerned residents in attendance. The council met in closed session for about 90 minutes Tuesday afternoon with attorneys regarding the gas well ordinance and enforcement concerns in the southern part of the city.
He told residents that the council had directed some action during the closed session and asked that the matter be put on a future agenda for a November meeting.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.
IN OTHER ACTION
During a meeting Tuesday, the Denton City Council also:
• Appointed members to a citizen advisory committee for the proposed 2014 bond election.
• Approved payment of $2.85 million in fees for energy transmission services.
• Agreed to participate in North Central Texas Council of Government cooperative programs for data and electronic warrant payment services.
• Agreed to purchase flushing/vacuum truck for $296,047, with $98,572 to Rush Truck Center of Houston for the cab/chassis and $197,475 to Gap Vax for the truck body.
• Authorized a $268,400 Community Development Block Grant for improvements to Fred Moore Day Nursery School.
• Authorized the purchase of 2.493 acres on North Locust Street for $172,701 for city’s electrical grid expansion.
• Approved the selection of sculptor Christie Wood for a public art sculpture of Pops Carter for $29,200.
• Approved an agreement with University of North Texas Murphy Center for Entrepreneurship for leadership development training for $26,400.