Southlake planning panel rejects drilling request

SOUTHLAKE--Pleas from residents who don’t want an 16-inch natural gas pipeline near their Southlake homes paid off early Friday morning.

Heavy snow was falling just after midnight when the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-1 to deny XTO Energy’s request to drill on Texas 26 near Brumlow Avenue.

Vice chairman Robert Hudson voted against denying the specific use permit.

A recommendation to deny could impose a super majority vote when the item goes for final consideration at City Council. That would mean six of the seven council members would have to vote in favor of the specific use permit in order for it to pass.

Commissioners learned their lesson from the Milner gas well on Nov. 19 when a vote to approve up to 18 wells failed 4-3 but was never followed up with a vote to deny. The city attorney later ruled that the commission failed to make a recommendation and that the application could proceed to council without a super majority.

The council is scheduled to have a public hearing and final vote on the Milner proposal at its meeting 5 p.m. Friday, weather permitting.

The proposal to drill up to 21 wells on Joe Wright’s property has undergone major changes since it was first proposed a year ago this month, including relocating the drill site farther away from Grapevine High School.

The majority of residents who spoke at the Thursday night meeting opposed the proposed pipeline route because it would pass through the Timarron Golf Course and also homes on Timber Line Lane, Johnson Road and Randol Mill Road.

The 16-inch gas line would carry gas from the Joe Wright drill site and others in Colleyville and, potentially, Keller, to market. Energy Transfer officials presented a different pipeline route in response to concerns raised at last month’s meeting but still met opposition.

Southlake resident Molly Bullard said the gas line would devalue “million dollar homes” and would kill the trees that define Johnson Road.

“It won’t be the same. That’s a lover’s lane if there ever was one,” she said. “I don’t have any benefit from this gas line coming through.”

John McFadden said he’s concerned because his “son’s bedroom would literally be within putting distance from this pipeline.”

Energy Transfer officials said directional boring would allow long stretches of pipe to be placed without disturbing the surface in some areas. In others, open trenches would bury the pipe about four feet deep.

Commissioners pushed for deeper 8-foot trenches to reduce the likelihood of future construction accidents like the one that ruptured an Atmos Energy line and forced the closure of Southlake Boulevard for hours last week.

Energy Transfer officials said there are several safety measures in place to prevent construction crews from accidently rupturing pipelines.

The commission also voted 4-1 to deny variance requests, including a request to drill within 1,000 feet of four Southlake homes. Hudson was the lone no vote.

Commissioner Joe Lancor said he was concerned that XTO Energy didn’t have waivers from one of the Southlake homes within 1,000 feet of the drill site.

A variance to allow the pipeline outside of designated pipeline routes was denied unanimously. The commission voted 3-2 to recommend approval for the last variance, which allows pipeline construction to go on 24 hours a day and exempts the company from noise restriction, allowing quicker pipe installation.