Robson plans get council approval

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The Denton City Council approved plans Tuesday for the build-out of Robson Ranch after adding conditions meant to address concerns about natural gas drilling near homes.

The council voted 7-0 to grant plan amendments allowing Arizona-based Robson Communities Inc. to start building the rest of the 2,700-acre retirement community in far southwest Denton. The development, which opened in 2001, has about 1,250 homes and 2,300 residents.

The council tabled the plans July 19 after a long discussion and public hearing to give staff members time to craft conditions. Most of the discussion centered on concerns about how future and existing homes would coexist with gas drilling sites.

Devon Energy and EnCana Oil & Gas have drilled at Robson Ranch, and other drilling sites are planned.

The plan amendments cover the development of 4,288 more homes, a golf course and a ball field. They also erase one proposed gas well site, known as Gas Park 9, and let the developer move another, Gas Park 13, about 300 feet to the north of its approved location west of Ed Robson Boulevard.

The council required a 250-foot buffer between homes and wells at Gas Park 13 - the only drilling site directly affected by the plan amendments.

City code usually requires at least 1,000 feet between gas wells and existing homes. The buffer shrinks to 250 feet if homes are built next to an existing drilling site.

However, a condition for Robson Ranch allows gas drilling as close as 100 feet from homes and 300 feet from places of public assembly. Those distances were part of a plan amendment in July 2001, before the city had a gas drilling ordinance.

Among other conditions, the council also approved several notification requirements Tuesday to ensure future homebuyers know gas drilling could occur near them. Officials with Robson Communities have said they notify homebuyers of the potential for gas drilling, but some residents at the July 19 hearing said drilling there took them by surprise.

Steve Soriano, the company's executive vice president, said the conditions were "definitely things we can work with." The company plans to seek another plan amendment to improve and increase the number of signs at Robson Ranch, Soriano said.

"This one [plan amendment] took two and a half years," he said. "Future ones hopefully will be simpler."

Some residents fought for more conditions, including another paved emergency exit, the relocation of another drilling site, and monitoring of air quality and noise at all drilling sites. Council members indicated they were open to considering more monitoring as part of the city's ongoing gas drilling code overhaul.

LOWELL BROWN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is lmbrown@dentonrc.com . IN OTHER ACTION

Also Tuesday, the Denton City Council:• Received petitions and letters from Denton Beyond Coal, a student group at the University of North Texas, urging the city to stop using fossil fuels. Rebekah Hinojosa, a group organizer, said she presented 500 petitions and 100 letters from people who want Denton to use only renewable energy sources. According to Denton Municipal Electric, the city-run electric utility, Denton gets about half of its power from a Southeast Texas coal plant, 40 percent from a wind-power-purchase agreement, 1 percent from a landfill-gas-to-energy project at the city landfill, and the rest from a power supply contract with NRG Energy.• Accepted a 15.4-acre property in the Preserve at Pecan Creek subdivision from Forestar USA Real Estate Group Inc. for a public park. According to a city staff report, the property features paved trails through wooded areas from the Denton Branch Rail Trail to Swisher Road. The homeowners' association agreed to continue maintaining the park for five years to allow for a transition into the city's parks and recreation budget, according to the report.• Approved the purchase of a nearly 1-acre property at 228 Mockingbird Lane for $118,500. The property will be used to enlarge E.J. Milam Park.

-Lowell Brown

 


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