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.

19 comments:

Redhorse said...

The perseverance of Flower Mound residents was the key to denying the dozen gas drilling variances sought by McDowell last night. Though they made informed decisions, the Oil/Gas Board of Appeals is far from qualified for the onslaught of appeals that are sure to come.

Many of the facts provided during the meeting, came from gallery speakers. The Chair repeatedly declared that the Town knew nothing about the other gas drilling issues. How disappointing to learn that numerous meetings of residents, at the Library, fire station, etc. and articles in the local papers haven’t caught the attention of our Town leaders?? You would think that in the interest of the welfare, safety, and future of Flower Mound, they’d make it their business to find out about such things.

Al Filidoro and Virginia Jellison have made it their business to be knowledgeable about these and other important issues facing Flower Mound. It’s time to take the future of Flower Mound back from a few and return it to the citizens. Vote and put real representation in the Town Council.

Citizen participation and attendance at ALL board meetings is the only way to stay informed about issues that affect us all. Waking up and reading that a particular ground-breaking has happened or ordinance has changed, is not going to keep YOUR home town safe, healthy and where you desire to live.

Being a “bedroom community” does not mean you should sleep through all the changes and direction that your community is going. WAKE UP and be part of keeping Flower Mound the beautiful place you chose to raise your family and live comfortably.

Anonymous said...

This group is polluting Flower Mound. A handful of misguided, self-centered, pseudo environmentalists who don’t know what they’re talking about are acting like they are the saviors of the community. In reality they are causing other citizens to be uncomfortable in exercising their mineral rights and to express their opinions, which are in many instances much more informed.

If any one of you in the StoptheDrilling Movement actually moved to the Metroplex for the clean-air that is very telling about your ability to find correct information, because the Metroplex is one of the most polluted areas in the US. And it’s not because of urban natural gas drilling. It’s in large part because of power being generated by coal-fired power plants that don’t use natural gas.

So, word-up, natural gas can help clean up the air we breathe. In the meantime, you’re responsible for destroying the friendly environment in the community.

You don’t speak for everyone. And while you say that you are for gas drilling just not here, what do you think can happen? Do you think you can “will” the Barnett Shale to move to another part of Texas or to another state? And meanwhile you’re enjoying the comforts of natural gas drilled from urban sites?

When you closed on your home and learned that you had mineral rights, did you never expect that the day might come when those rights could be collected and that many people would want to do just that? Did it not occur to you that some drilling might take place?

Besides, I’m beginning to think this is all part of some political campaign ploy to create an issue where there really isn’t one. It’s NOT your victory. The rig didn’t meet the setback requirements; that’s all.

Anonymous said...

Lovely comment by an employee of Chesapeek or one of the other companies. Probably doesn't live in Flower Mound and could probably care less about us. Our "mineral rights" that will bring us about $20 a month. Wow! I can buy an extra 3 value meals from McDondal's for that! (as long as I'm not run over by a truck on the way to McDonalds at 2499 and 3040.)

Folks...we know we are beginning to win the battle when the gas companies become so desperate that they are paying people to put signs in their yard (read this weeks Flower Mound Messenger Opinion section).

A very small battle has been won. Lots more to do!!

Anonymous said...

If we are "just a handful of citizens" you must have some pretty big hands. If the citizens are uncomfortable, it is because they are being pressured by gas companies to sign leases. They are nervous because our local government is allowing gas drilling to come into the middle of town. Flower Mound still has many open spaces on the outskirts of town. North and South. Access to gas can be made from there. The gas companies say they care about the community. Well then they should prove it. If they need to increase their horizontal drilling distance in order to get the gas under our homes, then they should invest some of the millions of dollars of profit they make and do some more research!!

Anonymous said...

FMCAUD has been blasted (when others get so mad, it's a sure sign you are winning) for not citing cold hard facts. Well (no pun intended), here's one for you: Proponents of gas drilling state the "windfall" the town will receive from drilling: From the Flower Mound Town website http://www.flower-mound.com/news/StakeholderPublicMeeting6-29-06.pdf gas stakeholders meeting presented to the Town Council page 35, and I quote "The estimated average revenue to the Town for the entire life of a gas well is $11,152.56" Wow, what a windfall to the Town. A median sized home according to www.city-data.com in Flower Mound is $225,500. At the current tax rate ( http://www.flower-mound.com/econdev/income.html ) would yield the town $20,280 (225,500 * .44970 * 20years ) assuming level tax rate. So one home would yield nearly twice the taxes of the world saving gas well would and leave a non-taxable 4 acre wasteland pad site which cannot be developed. I won't even get into the opportunity cost to the town of having 4 acres of non taxable land. Let's have the flamer discount those cold hard facts. Who is the less informed one now, where are your numbers?

Anonymous said...

Flower Mound - GOOD FOR YOU!!!! I live in Ft. Worth and have one of these wells 600 ft. from my house. As bad as you think it will be, I assure you it will be even worse. I am ready to walk away from my home of 15 years. Keep fighting the good fight. I wish we did.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the poster's comment about the "handful of misguided, self-centered, pseudo environmentalists who don’t know what they’re talking about...".

You can call me misguided, or self-centered, or a pseudo- environmentalist, but I stand with these people in their fight against urban drilling because indeed, I DO know what I'm talking about!

I know that I don't want a gas well drilled 500 feet from my house. I don't want a gas well drilled 500 feet away from anyone's house!

That's easy.

My guess is the poster doesn't live anywhere near one of the proposed drill sites--yet.

And one last thing...when you say there really isn't an issue, you're wrong. There is an issue. And there's going to continue to be "an issue" as long as our quality of life is threatened by residential drilling in the highly residential areas of Flower Mound.

Anonymous said...

Why have not read anywhere that the town of Flower Mound has itself signed a gas lease with the same Red Oak Operating Company for the soccer fields on FM407. It was filed as a memorandum with the county in early March. I thought Flower Mound's first gas lease with a 5-0 council vote might be newsworthy.

Anonymous said...

There is a similar gas well behind Tour 18 and not ONE negative comment was made about it by any of those residents- because they were totally unaware it was there. That is how obtrusive it is! People get so emotional about this issue and totally lose sight of the facts. Go look at similar wells to the proposed well- I assure you they are quite different than the picture posted on this site. We drive by them a lot and most people don't even realize what they are looking at. Get the facts- not the scare tactics! I also caution everyone not to vote for candidates based on one issue. We need articulate and educated people making decisions on all forefronts- this town is a lot bigger than the issue of oil and gas.

Anonymous said...

To the commenter that said:
" I also caution everyone not to vote for candidates based on one issue. We need articulate and educated people making decisions on all forefronts- this town is a lot bigger than the issue of oil and gas."

I know how to decide who I am going to vote for, don't worry. Sure there is more than one issue. However there are issues that keep me up at night and issues that don't. I'll be voting for those individuals that I agree with on the big stuff.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but I read that the residents of Tour 18 do know about the well and the wells to be drilled. Someone has signed leases for that area. How would you know if they complained about it, unless you work for a gas company or are one of our easy going council members. Even if there were complaints, I am sure we have not been told of them. This is information we have had to seek out for ourselves by reading countless minutes from past meetings and articles.

Anonymous said...

The Tour 18 well I was referring to was already in place, not the current drilling proposed and currently signing leases for. All I am saying is that there is a lot of information flying around about gas wells and most of it seems inflammatory and out of context to what is being done in Flower Mound and what the FM ordinances will allow. Most other cities and towns have less strict ordinances thus creating some of the problems proposed on this site. I just hate to see one-sided analysis. I live in the Cherokee Horn drilling area site and have neighbors on all sides of me that have already signed leases- I have not. But I want to make an educated decision before I decide what to do. I come to sites like this to get facts and instead find propaganda, making my decision harder to determine. When you read the play by play from the Oil and Gas Board meeting on this site- everything that supports the No Gas drilling effort is praised and described as "eloquent" and "moving", then when anyone who speaks for it is described it is in negative and derogatory tones with accusations of working for the oil/gas company or having monetary gain. I just want to see a fair presentation of the facts on this heated topic.

Anonymous said...

If you want to see facts, why don't you read the earlier post about how much tax revenue these so called "windfalls for the city" bring in. That is a cold hard fact from the Town's own website, put together by the Shareholder taskforce. So, they are not the "windfall" the mayor and other proponents of drilling would like the residents of the Town to believe, in fact it leaves a 4 acre wasteland upon which nothing else can be developed and for which, more revenue would be brought into the town with quality development. Let me guess, you are going to call that "propaganda" (or choose not to comment)?

Anonymous said...

Whenever a site is created just to support one side of an issue it is propaganda. Some of the other sites present a fair and balanced argument, giving people the opportunity to make good and sound judgments. I just don't want to get swept up in the emotion- I want to make a level-headed decision based on the facts- That is just how I make my decisions- sorry if that offends!

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, by your definition, then all oil and gas company websites are also propaganda, yes?

So, where do you go to get your balanced information out of curiosity?

Anonymous said...

I really can't believe we are having an argument over wanting facts versus opinions. No, I don't go to the oil and gas company websites, because they are definitely promoting their agenda. I have been on all of the yahoo groups sites and this site trying to find out if people are banding together to get more money from their leases, exactly where wells are going and what impact it will have on me. I have been balancing the information I get from those sites with what I read in the actual oil and gas ordinance and from what I gather- there is a lot of speculation versus fact being put out on this site in particular. This site gives noise and light measurements that are out of sync with the ordinance. People have been citing Southlake's oil and gas provisions as what we should have done- and now I see that they are changing theirs to look like Flower Mound's because ours is so much more stringent. Jellison's husband put out a blog saying his wife wants to see 500 feet setbacks- whereas the current setbacks are at 1000ft. There just seems to be a lot of misinformation being put out as fact. So I guess what I am trying to say is that I am getting my info from all of the FM based sites/blogs and then weighing them against the town's ordinance. I think that is the fairest way to assess the impact of this obviously emotional issue.

Anonymous said...

I posted a clarification on that, sorry about the confusion. - Eric J.

Anonymous said...

This site was created to share information about concerns and effects of urban drilling. It is not about getting the best deal. It is not going to promote or hype urban gas drilling. What you will find here is information about the our water, air, & quality of life issues when gas drilling comes into neighborhoods. It is about banding together to make sure the O & G ordinance protects the citizens and not the gas companies. It is about sharing ideas to make the gas companies more responsible when they drill. Right now I feel the best thing to do is not signing anything till the gas companies are willing to take some of their profits and come up with safer drilling distances. Better methods that don't inject chemicals into the ground and contaminate our water and soil. This site was not designed to praise gas drilling. Maybe you are on the wrong site. But in the future, when you can't drive through town because of the truck traffic, or can't drink the water, or can't stand the noise and smell of the diesel engines drilling and fracking, you can come back here and get the info you need.

Anonymous said...

You are right, I am probably on the wrong site to get the info I am looking for. I'll visit the neighborhood boards as they seem to represent the views of everyone in the area, not those just against the drilling, but those for it too.