City Council, Staff, and the Planning and Zoning Commission
held a joint meeting today to identify their planning and development
priorities for the next three years. Despite the ongoing controversy over the
Bonnie/Vintage neighborhoods – and despite the fact that EagleRidge has just
put a new rig up right outside of Southlakes Park – gas well drilling did not
make the list of priorities.
Here’s a look at the Southlake well sites.
The blue circles are the newly permitted (by the Railroad
Commission) wells that EagleRidge will be putting in. Note there are four of
them, distributed across three pad sites. It looks like two of them are old
vertical wells that will be converted to horizontal wells. And it looks like
two pad sites might be less than 1,200 feet from Southlakes Park (classified as
a protected use). This would clearly be a violation of the ordinance for the
new pad site, at least. Has anyone measured these distances?
Now look at the surrounding area on this map. Do you see all
those red asterisk-like dots? Those are all gas wells. If the Vintage/S. Bonnie
situation is a good indicator of the future of drilling around here, then all
of those gas wells can be reworked and refracked. Moreover, all those pad sites
can have new wells added to them. In just this little snapshot of the city, I
count about 20 gas wells already. That number could easily be 40 or 60 once gas
prices go up and another drilling boom comes and operators add wells to
All that industrial activity spread throughout town,
especially in areas where future growth is planned…and we don’t have gas
drilling on our list of priorities?!
Amber Briggle, newly minted P&Z Commissioner, finally
raised this issue at the end of the meeting. The response she got from the
Mayor was that we don’t have a problem with our gas well ordinance; we just
have an enforcement problem. So, why are they not enforcing the rules on the
wells in the Vintage/S. Bonnie neighborhoods?
This is what has people in those neighborhoods so confused,
frustrated, and angry. Kids started getting sick when the rigs showed up.
Parents have been diagnosed with asthma. A young family there just brought home
their newborn baby. There are at least two other expectant moms. Several
families are looking to sell their homes.
And this isn’t a priority.
The Gas Well Inspection Division posted aerial
photos of the gas wells and the neighborhood from 2001 to 2011. Here are a
couple of those pics.
Note how the wells preceded development of the homes. DR
Horton knew about the wells and opted to build close to them. But not a single
home buyer was informed about the wells. We have the 1,200 foot setback to protect
residents. If the people actually living near the hazard freely choose to
reduce the setback, then that is one thing. But it is another thing entirely
when a major land developer makes that choice for the residents without even
telling them about that decision.
Under our current regulations, we don’t have any way to
guarantee that future residents will be informed about gas wells near them. Here’s
what we do have (quoting from our current ordinance): “a
Protected Use or lot within a previously platted residential subdivision where
one (1) or more lots have one (1) or more habitable structures may be located
as close as two hundred fifty (250) feet of a pre-existing Drilling and
In other words, we are inviting this same
situation to happen again and again. So, how is it that we don’t have a
problem with the ordinance? How is fixing all this not a priority?