Thursday, June 19, 2008

Report on the June 18th O&G Board of Appeals Meeting

What a night!

The attendance was great (better than ever--the lobby was completely full and the spillover was located in two hallways) and Red Oak brought a passel of consultants and attorneys (probably twice as many as in April). The mood was definitely "anti-urban gas drilling" and the hired guns had to know that they were in for a real battle.

And they got it.

The fireworks started with the "Public Comment" portion. Three speakers came forward. The first proceeded with a rambling, almost incoherent, "explanation" of the history of Flower Mound, which was cut off at the three-minute time limit so I'm not sure about what happened after about 1990. I guess the purpose was to explain why in 2008 we "need" urban gas drilling, but alas, the 3 minute buzzer killed the punch line. Maybe next time.

The second speaker set the tone for the entire evening. I'll admit to a bit (well, a lot) of prejudice, but this guy was fabulous!! Larry Belcher (get the connection???) got up and provided a two minute and 45 second slam dunk regarding the developers tactics. Just to quote one of his more succinct points..."I am tired of hearing that I’m uninformed, unpatriotic and downright unintelligent because I fail to see the benefit of inviting rich developers—developers who do not live within miles and miles of any of the proposed gas wells—to frankly come take a dump in my front yard."


The third speaker challenged the ethics of the O&G Vice Chair for her behavior during the April meeting when she was witnessed by more than one person outside of the meeting (while the meeting continued inside Council chambers) discussing the Riverwalk variance request with a former Town Councilmember, the current mayor and another resident. Subsequently, during her remarks as part of the April deliberations, the Vice Chair presented a plan of action for the applicant to return with minor adjustments for consideration--which is exactly what the applicant requested last night. This speaker suggested that the Vice Chair recuse herself from last night's vote. She did not.

At this point, the Red Oak contingent began their presentation. Following are some of their comments:

--If the variances are denied, it will results in "loss of value" to the property owner
--A reminder that Red Oak's consultants had been part of the Flower Mound O&G Stakeholder's Group
--The entire 134 acres of Riverwalk is an "environmentally sensitive area"
--This new proposal (it was substantially different from their April proposal) did not require residential variances
--Trucks would be routed on state roads 407 and 2499. (The Red Oak presenter avoided an answer on who would repair the damage that the trucks would surely do to the roads, but stated that "I think the state will take care of the roads--they always have on other roads.")
--The new drill site was proposed for 695 feet from the "Applewood Day Care Center", but the presenter assured the audience that the owners had provided their consent for the drilling. (The presenter did not mention whether or not the parents had provided their consent.)
--The drill site would only be 300 feet from Morriss Road, but one of the attorneys stated that the road actually provided a "barrier."
--There was much discussion about floodplain variances and which floodplain designation was the right one. There are three competing floodplain designations.
--Their "prime consideration" was avoiding residential variances.
--They were proposing two wells, but there was the potential for 10-12 wells.
--Discussion which appeared to tie the viability of the Riverwalk development (including the proposed hospital) to the approval of the drilling variances. The O&G Board clarified that their purpose was only to rule on the requested variances and that any plans for future development were to be discounted.

At this point opposition comments were requested and a number of people came forward. Following is a sampling of comments that were made:

--An individual who had been in O&G all his life talked about the unacceptability of gas drilling in residential areas and in particular the fact that they were literally proposing to place a "bomb" under the proposed hospital.
--Others spoke about the unacceptability of the floodplain variances, the fact that gas drilling simply does not fit on the proposed Riverwalk site, that no one has the "right" to drill for gas on their property if it does not conform to the Town's O&G ordinance, the day care is too close to the proposed site, the Town O&G Board is a "stop gate" to protect the Town's residents, that Red Oak's proposal did not meet standards (as outlined in the Town's O&G ordinance) 4, 5, 6, and 9, nearby property values would be reduced 5-15% and if you want to be assured of accessing your mineral rights you should go out to the uninhabited areas.

There were two resident who spoke in support of the variances. The first said that the hospital was not afraid of the drill site and so neither should we. Furthermore, there was a lot of fear in the room, but that it was unfounded. The second said that it [Riverwalk] is just vacant land now and that the Barnett Shale is here to stay.

Then, a number of the people who were being paid to attend spoke in favor of the variances.

Next, the board proceeded to read approximately 20 emails that had allegedly been received in support of the variances. (I say "allegedly" as many of them did not have addresses, some were obviously from businesses and a number even identified themselves as being from outside of Flower Mound--one was even from out of state--Escondido, CA.)

The Board then went into "executive session" where they proceeded to debate, among themselves, the proposed variances.

Here are some of their comments:

Alisa Rich: Concern over the proposed transportation routes (407 and 2499); drilling is not necessarily in conflict with the Master Plan; she has a problem with the proposed pad being just 700 feet from a school; does not think that there is an imminent danger of explosion as there is new technology

Tina Miller: Not in favor; this whole process was put together eight years ago and the process works. She said that Flower Mound is well-served with the current ordinance and we should keep it and this isn't the right time to be doing this. The residents of Flower Mound have been accused of not being "developer friendly", but this isn't so. They love their town as is and there are just certain areas that should not be developed.

Gavin Poston: Objected to one of the Red Oak comments that those in attendance were simply "anti-drilling". He said until March 2008, no one came to these meetings. But once the variances started being requested inside of the residential areas, people started coming. He said that the people were not anti-drilling, but rather anti-"urban" drilling and that it's a lot different when variances are requested for the rural areas of Flower Mound.

--Mike Walker: Did not see enough potential danger to deny the variances, especially since there were no homes within 1,000 feet of the proposed drill site.

The Vote:

Fifteen variances were voted upon:

Tina Miller, Gavin Poston and Amy Wallace voted "nay"
on every proposed variance.

Mike Walker voted "aye" on every proposed variance.

Alisa Rich voted "aye" on ten of the fifteen variances.


After the meeting, one of the individuals who had spoken out for the variances became very upset and began shouting that the "lawsuits are gonna start". This individual then proceeded to "flip off" those of us standing around the foyer relishing the victory.

I thought that such behavior was something reserved for adolescents and the highly inebriated.

Guess not.


Anonymous said...

"lawsuits are gonna start" - give me a break. Put one of these a few hundred feet from my house, my child's school or my child's daycare when the dangers are known and that is the invitation for lawsuits.
Besides immaturity and alcohol, I think greed also causes such behavior.

Anonymous said...

If Cole thiks support for his development is soft now, wait until he sues every resident in the town by proxy.

I don't think many will be happy knowing their tax dollars would be going towards legal fees in an action initiated by him.

JustSayNo said...

Wow, these words of geting the town getting sued is so similar to what I heard Sylvia Inboden blurt out at the Oil and Gas Meeting and then she flipped off people as she walked out the door and they were clapping and cheering since all the variances were DENIED. All I can say about suing is, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.