It’s Halloween and the people near S. Bonnie and Vintage are
bracing for the arrival of Frackenstein. Now that the City of Denton has
withdrawn their lawsuit against EagleRidge it is all but inevitable that we’ll
see something our ordinance was supposed to eliminate: fracking in close
proximity to homes.
to the Denton Record Chronicle, “City Council member Dalton Gregory said that the city’s new rules, which took
years to draft, weren’t accomplishing what the council hoped they would
accomplish. ‘We need to take another stab at trying to rewrite our rules to
improve our legal position,’ Gregory said.”
Our new rules (with
the 1,200 foot setback distance) don’t
apply to most of the fracking that will happen around here in the future,
because existing gas wells are vested under older rules. As one City Council
member told me recently, “We closed the barn door after all the cows had
Here's what he meant: Even if the City would have won their cease and desist
order, they would not have saved the Vintage neighborhoods. They would have
stopped fracking on the two new wells, but not the existing (old) wells. Even
under the best case scenario that the City is able to get new wells on existing
pad sites defined as new projects (and thus controlled by the latest local
regulations), we would still be looking at over 200 gas wells in the City
limits vested under older rules with shorter setback distances.
And it may be even worse than this. Our current
ordinance still has a clause (see
35.22.5.A.1.d) that allows for homes and other “protected
uses” to be built as close as 250 feet from pre-existing drilling and
production sites. Here’s the theory behind this. Setbacks are designed to
protect the surface owner. If surface owners want, voluntarily, to move close
to gas wells, then that is their choice (in other words, this is different from
a surface owner already in place having a gas well come close to them without
The problem is that
the “surface owners” being protected here are the mega-developers like DR
Horton and Robson. They are the ones making a choice to build close to gas
wells. But homeowners, those who will actually live in the area, are not making
that choice. We learned from Vintage that no one was told they were moving into
an industrial zone. So, they don’t get the protection that setbacks are
designed to provide, because they aren’t the “surface owners” who matter in the
eyes of the current regulatory scheme.
member Kevin Roden called
the situation on Vintage “awful.” He went on to remark, “I urge all
of us to temper our initial desire for quick justice in this instance with what
is in the long-term interest of our community.” It sounds like there is no
stopping the fracking that is coming down Bonnie Brae from UNT to Vintage.
The only reason for this is because it is considered the continuation of an existing
project that was permitted in 2004. Back then, there were no surrounding homes
and Denton City Council issued a Specific Use Permit (SUP) for these sites.
I have pasted a screen shot of some of that SUP below. The current activity clearly violates many of the conditions laid out here. This could mean a $2,000 daily fine for EagleRidge. The City could even revoke the SUP. I wonder if they are considering this...maybe it's not too late to stop Frackenstein from visiting this neighborhood.