ARLINGTON -- A packed council chambers erupted in cheers and applause Tuesday night after the City Council rejected Chesapeake Energy's plan to drill for natural gas in a southwest Arlington neighborhood along Rush Creek.
A few dozen people stood in the hallway after the fire marshal said the chamber had reached its maximum occupancy of 350 people.
After a lengthy but calm hearing with 64 speakers, the council voted 7-1 to deny Chesapeake's request for a special-use permit to drill at the southwest corner of South Bowen Road and West Bardin Road near Rush Creek.
The council also rejected the company's request to rezone the 55-acre site for office use because the current planned-development zoning didn't allow for drilling. Chesapeake had planned to drill 22 wells on 4.4 acres.
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Mayor Robert Cluck was among the council members who said they could not support drilling in the established neighborhood and suggested that the company find alternative sites in a less densely populated area.
"It's a beautiful place. This is a premium housing area," Cluck said. "Why in the world would you not come from some other place? There are other sites."
Council member Mel LeBlanc voted to support both the rezoning request and the specific-use request.
In a different Chesapeake case, the council unanimously approved two permits to drill on the 4.7-acre Truman site in north Arlington.
The site already has one council-approved well, called the Bobcat well, which Chesapeake plans to drill in mid-March.
Both permits require a second City Council vote before they are official.
Speakers, who were given two minutes each, were warned at the beginning of the meeting to remain civil or they would be escorted out.
More than 160 residents signed up in support of the Rush Creek permits. Some testified that property owners had the right to financially benefit from their minerals. Others said that natural gas drilling would help the country wean itself from dependence on foreign oil and that they trust Chesapeake to maintain a safe, attractive drill site with minimum impact on surrounding property owners.
"Some of us will be inconvenienced more than others, but there is indeed a long-term gain for the entire area if Chesapeake drills in Rush Creek," resident Karen Borgie said.
Nearly 190 people signed cards to oppose the request, which they said would turn the land into an industrial site that would bring more traffic, noise and pollution to their neighborhood. Some speakers said they would be glad to return their lease money to keep the gas industry from drilling near their homes or contaminating drinking water with fracking.
"I can find all kinds of reasons not to grant this rezoning. An industrial site in the middle of residential is one of those things we tried to avoid," said Carole Hoyer, a resident and former Planning and Zoning commissioner.
"What I see is a city that is becoming ugly because of so many sites. At some point, people will say 'Why do I live here? Why would I move here?'"
Before voting, council member Sheri Capehart applauded property owners' participation.
"For me, it comes down to a land-use decision. To have an industrial complex where it is so surrounded by neighborhoods is something I cannot support," Capehart said. "I would appeal to the applicant to find alternate sites where you can reach the minerals of these people."
A Chesapeake official told council members that the company had limited options because of flood plain, engineering and lease restrictions.
The Planning and Zoning Commission had initially recommended denial of the rezoning request in June 2010.
But after a new hearing in December 2011, it recommended approval with stipulations that an electric or diesel-electric hybrid drilling rig be used to reduce noise and that trucks be prohibited in the neighborhood during peak traffic hours Monday through Friday.
The Truman well
The proposed Truman site is expected to develop minerals for downtown property owners.
Mount Olive Baptist Church and the Downtown Arlington Management Corp. board of directors were among the 21 supporters at Tuesday's meeting.
Thirteen people opposed the case.
The council previously rejected a permit for the site in March, citing concerns about truck traffic in the congested entertainment district. After Chesapeake agreed to stricter controls on truck traffic, water usage and operations to coordinate with major events in the entertainment district, including Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers games, the council approved the Bobcat IH well, which has not been drilled.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578