Members of the city council faced a couple of issues Tuesday night in which homeowners were not happy about developments taking place near them.
One involved a planned oil well site, while the other concerned a large metal structure described as resembling a “hangar.”
Tom Curtis and Chance Ray told council they opposed the rezoning of 15 acres near their homes on Clarke Street. Jones Energy has purchased the land and plans to drill an oil and gas rig there.
City planner Dustin Downey said the council approved more stringent ordinances concerning oil and gas operations in June. He said the law forbids drilling within 500 feet of a home or residential neighborhood. The property had two different zonings. Rezoning the land into one category would give the city more oversight, Downey said.
Curtis said Jones Energy used a third party to purchase the land, a move he called “sneaky.”
“They bought this assuming you all would approve the rezoning,” Curtis said.
Mayor and Acting City Manager Matt White said the city approved the more strict ordinances as a way to protect homeowners, but said it had no power to totally restrict what could be done on the property. By rezoning the property from Automotive and Commercial Recreation (CAR) and Residential Estates (R-E) to making it all Automotive and Commercial Recreation (CAR), the city requirements concerning oil and gas operations could go into affect.
Curtis pointed to a well site being fracked near Bridge Creek that was shut down recently by the state Corporation Commission after an earthquake measuring 3.4 shook the area. He said there is no evidence that fracking causes quakes, but also, there is none that shows it does not.
Curtis asked who pays for damages to the homes in the area if a quake were to occur. White said that would most likely result in Curtis’ insurance filing suit against the firm drilling the well.
“It happens all the time,” White said.
Curtis questioned why the well is not being drilled at Lake El Reno. He said Jones plans on drilling a horizontal well to pull minerals from that area. A Jones representative said it was not possible to drill at the lake. Three wells exist in that area now. White said he recommended the lake site more than a year ago, but geologists for Jones determined it was not feasible.
Jones will be required to provide landscaping around the drill site as well as create a sound barrier. The firm will also be required to repair any damage caused to roads to specifications outlined by the city.
The rezoning was approved 3-2 with council member Bob Ballhorn voting to abstain and council member Tracey Rider voting no. Abstaining from a vote is counted as a no vote.
As for the large metal structure, city officials said they have received numerous calls from residents upset about it. The structure is on South Reno, north of Thompson Drive. It is more than 18 feet high. It was pointed out the Board of Adjustment approved the structure.
“This is a disaster,” White said. He called for a moratorium on building metal buildings until the issue was studied by the Municipal Planning Commission and an acceptable ordinance could be enacted by the council.
Council member Tim Robinson argued it was wrong to shut down business for an indefinite period while a solution is sought. He said each case should be handled on an individual basis and permits sought now would not be ready for construction for 30 days.
Robinson’s argument prevailed and council voted to set a 30-day moratorium or until Dec. 11, the day before the next council meeting.