Life is a lot quieter these days in Blake Axen’s Villages of Park Hill neighborhood since the natural gas compressor station near his home shut down Aug. 1.
The pumping station that caused so much noise, pollution and anxiety for neighbors in northwest Mansfield ceased operations as the developer of Dolce Vita officially closed on the land purchase for his new neighborhood, said Charles Dibrell, DFW director for Terra Associates.
The station and nearby gas wells, which were shut in several years ago, will be removed and the land remediated according to environmental regulations to make way for the new 277-lot neighborhood.
“We’re now enjoying our back yard much more than we used to,” said Axen, whose home was about 300 feet from the compressor. “It was a constant humming sound.”
This comes after years of intense negotiations, compromises and several versions of the Dolce Vita project.
“What was presented first of all was not smart growth,” Axen said. “For the overall good of the people who live in my neighborhood, this outcome was what we wanted.”
The 81-acre site is located between the Mansfield ISD Center for the Performing Arts, Callender Road and North Main Street in northwest Mansfield.
Summit Midstream will start removing equipment from the compressor station this month.
“We finished those negotiations and closed on the purchase this week so they are moving forward with the decommissioning of that Lone Star Station,” Dibrell said. “They’re going to start the demolition. It’s all going to be removed so you’ll never know it was there.”
The first lots in Dolce Vita could be ready to build on by spring of 2021.
This turn of events was anything but assured a year ago. The original plans for Dolce Vita would have kept the gas wells and compressor stations intact, building streets and homes around them.
Neighbors in the Villages of Park Hill and nearby Woodland Estates fought against that plan at multiple city meetings in 2018, eventually convincing the council to table the plan. That gave Dibrell time to negotiate with Summit Midstream and Eagle Ford Operating to purchase the land and completely remove all the natural gas infrastructure.
Dibrell credits the neighborhoods, the city, Eagle Ridge, Summit Midstream and the former owners of the land for making this compromise come together.
“Everybody was participating,” Dibrell said.
At one point, there were plans to actually expand the compressor station to handle more natural gas as new wells were drilled on a pad site elsewhere in Mansfield. Now, that won’t be a factor.
Councilman Terry Moore said this was a team effort. He made the recommendation to the rest of the council a year ago to table the project.
“Working with the homeowners brought about the solution that allowed for development yet shut down a compressor station and multiple gas well sites that had been such a great influence on the neighborhood,” Moore said. “Mr. Dibrell showed tremendous concern and worked with all parties to bring about the best possible solution.”
Tamera Bounds, president of the Woodland Estates homeowners association, said Eagle Ridge, which operated the gas wells at the site, was constantly non-compliant and asking for exceptions from the city of Mansfield. Bounds was often the one monitoring the drill site for compliance issues and would report it the city’s gas inspector and the council.
Some neighbors complained of breathing problems and nose bleeds.
“They kept coming back saying it’s not commercially feasible,” Bounds said.
Ultimately, low natural gas prices killed the gas wells there.
“It’s been very stressful living next door to (the gas infrastructure).”
Then, Docle Vita came along.
“I think it just became the perfect storm, if you will, that you had this development,” Bounds said.
Not all nearby residents were happy with the compromise because it means Meriwether Street will be extended from Woodland Estates into Dolce Vita. Some residents said they would prefer living with the natural gas operations over the increased traffic from having their quiet residential street extended to Callender Road where it can used by cut-through traffic. They were especially concerned about an increase in traffic at Nancy Neal Elementary School.
While not everyone supports the compromise that was reached, Bounds said she believes this is the “lesser of the evils.”
The council approved the zoning for Dolce Vita with a 5-1 vote in May with Councilman Larry Broseh voting no.
Mayor David Cook included a stipulation that Meriwether Street be extended with a gate so only emergency vehicles can open it. That gate will remain in place until 70 percent of the lots in Dolce Vita are sold or until the council takes action to remove it. This delays the traffic increase opposed by neighbors at least for a few years.
Pedestrians will also be able to pass through the gate.
Neighbors are also concerned about increased traffic on Callender Road on the east side of the project. This affects residents in the Villages of Park Hill.
Axen said he and his neighbors will continue pressuring the city to widen and improve the north-south road, which he said is already failing in some places.