July 18, 2008

Flower Mound Backs Panel on No Drilling

By Marice Richter, The Dallas Morning News

Jul. 18--Flower Mound will stand by the decision of a town board in its response to a lawsuit filed by a natural gas operator.

The town must respond to the suit filed in Denton County by Red Oak Gas by Monday. Flower Mound will respond either Friday or Monday, according to Town Attorney Terry Welch.

The suit was filed in appeal of the decision of Flower Mound's Oil and Gas Board of Appeals to deny Red Oak the 15 variances its needs to drill on a 158-acre tract that is planned to become an upscale development called River Walk at Central Park.

"We will defend the board's decision," Mr. Welch said after meeting in closed session with the council.

Mayor Pro Tem Tim Trotter said the decision was unanimous among the five council members. Mayor Jody Smith did not attend the meeting.

However, he declined to comment on the reason for the council's decision because of the litigation.

Before the session, opponents of urban gas drilling in Flower Mound presented the council with a petition containing about 570 signatures from people asking the council to defend the oil and gas appeals board.

Some opponents said they were concerned that the council might consider settling the suit rather than fight it.

"I'm thrilled that the council has selected to represent the town and its citizens against this frivolous lawsuit," said urban drilling opponent Peggie Kimberlin. "Our ordinances have made Flower Mound a destination for many homeowners, and without them there will be a lot of taillights heading out of town."

Flower Mound has one of the strictest oil and gas drilling ordinances in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

There are 21 wells operating on 10 pad sites in the town limits, but nearly all are in sparsely developed areas on the western side.

This was the first application to drill in the urban eastern side of Flower Mound.

Red Oak's request for variances was first turned down in April. The company made new requests in June, which were again denied.

The variances were related to the drill site's proximity to buildings as well as floodplain, roads and environmentally sensitive areas.

The company had planned to drill on the 158-acre site before developer Cole McDowell started building shops, restaurants, offices, condos, apartments and a hospital.

One of the reasons an appeals board member cited in denying the variances was increased drilling-related truck traffic in an already congested area where road construction is under way.

Denton and Tarrant counties have been identified as productive areas for harvesting natural gas from the underground Barnett Shale. The shale stretches across 18 North Texas counties and is considered one of the best sources for natural gas exploration in the United States.


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