Council expects overflow crowd at fracking hearing

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Registration opened at 1 p.m. today for residents who want to address the City Council about a proposed citywide ban on hydraulic fracturing.

City staff will set up on the west side of the courtyard at City Hall, 215 E. McKinney St., and continue registering speakers through the public hearing itself.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. The agenda includes the council’s consideration of two specific-use permits and a consent agenda before the public hearing on the ban begins.

Under the city charter, the council must hold a public hearing on the initiative petition that proposed the ban. A group of Denton residents organized the initiative in the spring, delivering the signatures of nearly 2,000 registered voters supporting a ban. If the council passes the ban tonight, Denton would be the first city in Texas to ban fracking inside its city limits.

Industry groups have been circulating fliers in Denton and surrounding communities to alert mineral owners and others to the possibility of the ban and urging them to attend the meeting to oppose it. A petition management company has been circulating a plebiscite petition in support of fracking that is expected to be presented tonight. Outgoing Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman wrote a letter to Mayor Chris Watts and the City Council on Friday urging them to not approve the ban, calling oil and gas drilling a pillar of the Texas economy.

The staff has been preparing for a large crowd, boosting the network for increased demand on the city’s public Wi-Fi system and requiring that those speaking on behalf of a group or bringing audio-visual material to have registered by Monday.

Overflow seating will be available in the work session room and the conference room at City Hall. More overflow seating will be set up at the neighboring Civic Center, 321 E. McKinney St., beginning at 6:30 p.m.

In addition to the parking lots at City Hall and the Civic Center, overflow parking will be available across the street by the former tax office, 300 E. McKinney St., and at Emily Fowler Central Library, 502 Oakland St.

The city has detailed additional requirements for registered speakers on its website, Banners, signs, applause, yells and similar demonstrations will not be permitted, nor will tailgating in the parking lots.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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