Rather than build homes around gas wells and frack ponds, one housing developer has decided to purchase the land and shut the natural gas production down permanently.
Nearby residents praise that decision but also want the housing developer to purchase the noisy compressor station just to the south, removing all traces of Barnett Shale activity.
The proposed Dolce Vita neighborhood would be sandwiched between the Mansfield ISD Performing Arts Center, Callender Road and Woodland Estates in northwest Mansfield. Neighbors have been fighting the project for more than a year, saying the density and proximity to gas wells and compressor stations would create a safety hazard and nuisance.
“We do not have enough details or have a clear picture as to what will happen with the compressor station and that is concerning,” said Blake Axen, president of the Villages of Park Hill homeowners association. “We are essentially on the front line as far as proximity to the compressor station. I certainly didn’t wish this on my family or neighbors when we moved in and I don’t want it for future residents of Mansfield.”
Charles Dibrell, civil engineer for Terra Vista, the company developing the project, said while talks to purchase the pad sites and frack pond were successful, the compressor station will still be needed to serve other gas wells in the area.
“We couldn’t afford what they were wanting,” Dibrell said.
As long as natural gas prices stay low, the compressor station could be scaled back with smaller equipment replacing the existing machinery.
“The volume of gas they’re processing creates a need for smaller equipment,” he said. “They’ll have smaller engines, less noise. It’s wonderful news for everybody.”
He added that in the future, it’s possible a new pipeline could be built connecting to a compressor station to the west, eliminating the need for that compressor.
As for the well site and frack pond, Dibrell said Eagle Ridge just needs board of director approval, expected in late February.
“We would own the land and they would not have any rights to come back and drill,” Dibrell said. “When they sell us the property, those sites are gone for perpetuity.”
The former pad sites would be used for roads or yards — there would be no houses built on the former drill sites, he said.
The City Council voted unanimously on Jan. 28 to remove Dolce Vita from the agenda so it goes back to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
“Ultimately, this project will get developed one way or another,” said Councilman Terry Moore. “We want to grant them enough time to negotiate with the gas well owner, shut down the gas wells and hopefully shut down the compressor station. If they want to apply new and fresh again, they can and we’ll start this process over again.”
Dibrell said they planned to submit new plans anyway with the pad sites and frack pond incorporated into the neighborhood. The new plan could have as many as 253 lots, compared with 163 in the original plan, Dibrell said.
“We already knew we were going back to P&Z so no foul there,” he said.
Another potential change would be to build a new road connecting Dolce Vita to West Debbie Lane. That would allow the frontage on West Debbie Lane to be developed as a potential commercial property.
The new plan also nixes plans to extend Meriwether Street from Woodland Estates to Dolce Vita, a major point of contention for neighbors.
“The neighborhood is so opposed to it and it’s not critical for us,” Dibrell said. “We believe the bridge itself will not be built and it will be left as an option for the city should the traffic patterns change.”
Tamera Bounds, who lives in Woodland Estates, said neighbors want the compressor station gone, too.
“The citizens have had their fair share of violations, spills, noise, blowdowns and emissions,” Bounds said. “This move [removing the proposal from the agenda] eliminates time constraints for the developer and industrial uses to accomplish planned goals for sale and contract of the gas well sites, frack pond and compressor station.”
Axen said he hears the noisy compressor station ever day.
“Address the compressor station and other concerns so that the developer can eventually bring a sensible plan to P&Z,” Axen said. “Let’s be better and lead by example.”