Friday, April 25, 2008

Proposed Riverwalk Site

Someone has posted a video on YouTube showing what the 158 acres of the Proposed Riverwalk Site looks like now. Please take two minutes and watch it. How is this "smart" growth? This is about as "smart" as the lonely landscaped roundabouts at Lakeside Business District.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Candidate's Forum Saturday April 19th.

Please see the notice on the right side of the blog about the Candidate's Forum this Saturday Night. Get there early if you want a seat...
Keep in mind that our current ordinance had to be approved by Council Members and Council Members appoint the members of the Oil and Gas Board. Council members are critical to the issue of urban drilling.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Report on Last Night's O&G Board of Appeals Meeting

Last night’s attendance was GREAT! This time the Town was prepared and many extra chairs were set up in the lobby and down adjacent hallways.

Just like last month, the Board of Adjustment deliberated endlessly over one variance request which involved a request by a local resident to build an out-building which would be two feet higher than code. This was debated for over an hour and a half before it was finally denied. Two interesting quotes from the board’s chairperson did come out of this session, however. First, was her concern that this request violated both the “spirit and the intent” of the town codes and second was that while they “love” to grant variances, it can’t be a variance due to a “self-created hardship.”

Once the over-sized garage request was defeated, the board announced a thirty-minute break before they would reconvene as the O&G Board of Appeals. The crowd groaned as it was already almost 8:00pm. During the break, one enterprising resident circulated a petition asking that that the next O&G Board of Appeals meeting be held at a specific date and time so that we wouldn't have to arrive 2 ½ hours before the actual meeting started. He presented this to the Board chair and she actually instructed the Town staff to try to find another date/time to conduct the next meeting.

When the meeting finally started, I noticed a marked change in the board’s demeanor from last month’s meeting. While at certain points they were condescending, pompous and excruciatingly long-winded, I believe it was less so than last month. At least we weren’t subjected to detailed recitations of their academic credentials, nor were we told that if “my credentials aren’t good enough for you, then I don’t know what you’d want.” We didn’t have to hear again that if we “knew as much as they did, then we’d be on the board.”

Next was the public participation portion of the meeting. Speakers were not restricted to two minutes (like last month), but only twelve speakers were allowed to speak. A highly-respected local realtor spoke very convincingly about the reduction in property values that would, without question, occur if Flower Mound were to become known as the place where all the drilling is taking place. He said that whatever revenue might come to the Town because of the drilling, it would be offset by the loss in property values.

Several other residents spoke passionately (and very well, I might add) about their objection to any gas drilling within the highly residential areas of Flower Mound.

The chairperson at this point then said something that I thought was condescending and down-right rude. She spoke to the audience like she was speaking to a roomful of first-graders and said very loudly and very slowly “There is N O T H I N G to talk about.” She went on to explain that no applications had been received for Bridlewood or Northshore so there was absolutely nothing to talk about. One Bridlewood resident then got up and said that just that afternoon she had seen the surveyors on the golf course at Bridlewood and she thought that indeed there was something worth talking about.

One especially effective speaker talked about the hundreds of 80,000 lb. trucks that would be required to haul water in and out of the site and that the damage that they would cause would not be offset by the estimated $11K in revenue that the well, over its expected 20 year life, would be estimated to bring to the Town.

One of the candidates for Town Council, Virginia Jellison, spoke about the need for the Town Council to revisit the O&G ordinance because advances in technology have made the current ordinance obsolete. She said that the O&G Board of Appeals must refuse all variance requests for drill sites within the highly residential areas.

This is the second time I have seen Ms. Jellison speak against urban drilling at the O&G Board of Appeals. She also spoke against it at Monday’s Town Council meeting as well as a prior Town Council meeting in March. Interestingly, I have not heard her opponent speak about her position on gas drilling in highly residential areas. Since she was busy last Sunday and didn’t attend the FMCAUD Candidates’ Forum, I was unable to hear her views at that time.

I also have yet to hear the challenger for Place 2, Steve Dixon, articulate his position on urban gas drilling as he too was “busy” and couldn’t attend the Candidates’ Forum nor has he spoken publicly in Town Council or the O&G Board of Appeals meeting about this.

The consultant for Red Oak, Bobby Dollack, [ hi Bobby, I know you regularly logon to this blog :-) ], spoke about how the proposed location was the one that best protected the citizens, etc. He said that there were only two property owners within 1,000 feet of the proposed drill site. He said that they would use an “urban” rig, which was smaller and quieter than others we might have seen. He disclosed that the drill site, would be only 300 feet from townhomes that would be part of the Riverwalk development and 500 feet from the proposed hospital. He also said that the trucks would come east on 407 and then south on 2499 and that this would be the least impact to the Town residents.

Mr. Dollack did not address the required pipelines and later in the meeting, when I tried to ask about it, I was told that I couldn’t ask a question at that point.

The chairperson asked if the whole Riverwalk development was riding on this decision. Mr. Dollack said it was not, but that it would change the plans for the development, if the variances were not approved.

The town O&G inspector, Dustan Compton then made a presentation which talked a great deal about the floodplain, the Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs), the proximity to the Timber Trails Park, and the fact that 3.4 acres of trees would have to be cut down.

In follow up questions and comments, it was explained that as many as 10 wells would be constructed—all from the same pad site. This first well would only have one lateral, which would be about 1,700 feet in length and that the current property owner, Cole McDowell, already owns all of those mineral rights.

Should the other nine wells be drilled, it would require the leasing of the mineral rights from hundreds of residences north and west of the proposed drill site. None of those neighborhoods have been notified of the possible drilling yet.

At this point residents were allowed to speak against the requested variances and a number did so. Probably most importantly the two impacted property owners spoke. First, an individual who represented one property owner reminded one of the board members of her comment last month in which she stated that the approval would effectively “hose” future development nearby. This individual stated that in this instance the property owner that would be “hosed” was his client and that he was not in favor of it. (As opposed to last month’s request from property owners in far west Flower Mound, who requested that the variances be approved so that drilling could occur on their property.) He also reminded the board of their statement in the earlier session when they denied a homeowner the right to build a garage that was two-foot higher than code, that they don’t approve variance just as a result of a “self-inflicted hardship."

Next the daughter of the other property owner within 1,000 feet of the proposed site, stated that she was particularly upset about this as she had only been notified of it within the past day or so. She was very much against waiving the variances and stated that she was especially concerned about the potential for flooding as she has lived there 36 years and has seen it flood many times.

Other residents, including outgoing Councilmember Laurie Long, spoke of how this would have devastating impacts on the master plan and how that even if you didn’t live near the proposed site, you would be impacted due to the number of trucks (and the resulting damage) that would now be inflicted upon 2499.

Only a handful of people spoke in support of the variance requests. Probably the most outspoken was a woman, who I have been told is the campaign manager for the person who is challenging Ms. Jellison for Place 4. She stated:

--Texas has always been an O&G state; the Barnett Shale is here
--The developers live here too, and they’ve spent a lot of money to get to this point
--The hospital (proposed) isn’t afraid of the gas drilling
--She’s not going to live her life afraid of everything
--There has been a lot of misinformation (but she didn’t say what that was)
--We don’t have mob rule
--And, a meteor could always hit us, anyway

Mr. McDowell spoke of the millions of dollars in purported economic benefits to the Town.

Interestingly, the chairperson, refused to allow questions from the audience. (Last month the audience was given that opportunity.)

One other side note: At one point late in the discussions (when things were starting to look bad for Red Oak), one of the board members, Ms. Rich left the room and was seen in conversation with Mr. McDowell, Mr. Dollack, and the mayor, Jody Smith. Of course, they may have just been discussing the weather.

When the deliberations among the board members began, it became apparent that this wasn’t going to get an approval as easily as the variance request that was heard last month. A few key comments:

--Poston: We’re at a crossroads. Is drilling an entitlement? I'm concerned with the number of variances as well as the percentage of variance requested.

--Murphy: Agrees somewhat (with above statement).

--Walker: Denied that they set precedents and one request is completely separate from the other. But, he doesn’t like the variances that take the setbacks down to zero.

--Rich: Is drilling an entitlement? They [the mineral rights owners] have as much right to their minerals as the surface rights owners have to theirs. This WILL be developed. The value of nearby property will “skyrocket.”

--Ward: Concerned about the number of variances; they’re in place to protect the public safety. (The Riverwalk area has been proposed as a community gathering place.) Concerned about objections from neighbors.

--Doherty: The property values will go up in surrounding areas, but due to the Riverwalk project, not due to gas drilling.

Finally, all twelve variances were voted upon. Every single variance was denied by “nay” votes from every one of the board members, except Ms. Rich, who voted “aye’ on four of the proposed variances.

The meeting was finally adjourned around 12:20am.

One last comment. Do not think for a moment that this battle has been “won”. This was only a minor victory in a small skirmish. You must still make your voice heard. Put up a sign. Write your local officials. Call talk radio. Talk to your neighbors. DO NOT SIGN A LEASE !!!

Stay informed and stay tuned.

**********JUST IN**********


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What's it to be?

Wednesday, April 9th, at 6:30 is a night when Flower Mound history will be made.

Why? The O&G Board of Appeals will hear requests from Red Oak Gas Drilling for seven variances in the Town's O&G ordinance for the proposed Riverwalk development. These requests are to seek decreases to the setbacks for all of the following:

**Environmentally Sensitive Area
**Public park
**Property line
**Tank battery
**Storage tank

But why will this night be historical? Other variances to the O&G ordinance have been approved, right?

Yes, but never before in the middle of town.

Never in a location which would bring hundreds of 80,000 pound trucks down our streets to compete with moms picking up kids from school, teenagers heading to Sonic for a cherry limeade and dads rushing to the ballfield just in time for the kickoff.

Is this what we want for Flower Mound?

Make your voice heard on Wednesday night.

It matters.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Report on the Candidates' Forum

We had a packed house at yesterday's Flower Mound Citizens Against Urban Drilling Candidates' Forum with close to 100 in attendance. Each attendee was given a piece of paper at the sign in desk and was asked to write their question out for the candidates. There were a number of good questions (many were related to urban gas drilling, as expected), but there were a fair number that were on topics such as oldgrowth/ancient forests, SMARTgrowth and the MasterPlan, high-density housing, and mixed use developments.

Only two candidates chose to attend yesterday's forum--Al Filidoro, who is the incumbent for Place 2 and Virginia Jellison, who is running for Place 4. The other two candidates, Steve Dixon and Jean Levenick, as well as Mayor Jody Smith, who is running unopposed, declined FMCAUD's invitation (which was delivered on March 24th) to participate in the forum saying that they had other commitments. (Mr. Dixon did however initially accept the invitation, but rescinded his acceptance the same day that both Ms. Levenick and Ms. Smith declined.)

The forum was conducted in an orderly and respectful manner and basically, all of the questions offered, were answered. (Many were very similar in nature, so not every single question was read, however.) Furthermore, the candidates stayed long after the meeting ended in order to answer questions from individuals as well as the news media.

Many, many thanks to all of you who attended. I appreciate your willingness to give up a bit of a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in order to learn the positions of the Town Council candidates.

Just a couple more case you haven't registered to vote, please do so. Your voter registration card must be postmarked no later than Thursday, April 10th.

Also, don't forget tonight's Town Council meeting at 6:00pm. Three-minute, citizen input remarks are allowed near the beginning of each meeting.

And finally, please make your plans to be at Wednesday night's O&G Board of Appeals meeting at 6:30pm. This is a VERY important meeting as a number or variances related to the Riverwalk project are up for approval by the board. These variances include setback requirements for floodplain, Environmentally Sensitive Areas, Public Parks, Residences, Property lines, Tank Batteries, and storage tanks. Citizen comments are also welcomed at this meeting.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Candidates' Forum on Sunday, April 6th at 2:30pm

Don't forget the Candidates' Forum on Sunday, April 6th at 2:30pm at the Flower Mound Library.

Also, in case you're not registered to vote, your voter registration card MUST be in to the Denton County Board of Elections by April 10th.