Monday, January 31, 2011

What the Hell?

Southlake Planning and Zoning Commission is asking just that.  Read about the latest gas drilling bait and switch drama playing out there in the Southlake Journal.  And be there Tuesday for the City Council vote, it could be fun.

The City Council could vote Tuesday on whether to authorize the city's first gas wells, despite objections from some Planning and Zoning Commission members who voted against the application.

But some residents, including planning and zoning commissioners, say the city is ignoring the will of the commission by not requiring a supermajority vote, or six of the seven council members. Typically, when the commission denies a request, a supermajority is required for approval.

A city attorney's ruling later that day said that because the commission didn't follow up that vote with a recommendation to deny the permit, XTO Energy could proceed to the council without a commission recommendation. Attorney Tim Sralla advised City Manager Shana Yelverton that a supermajority would not be needed.

That surprised many commissioners, who said their intent was to deny the application, according to e-mails obtained through the Public Information Act by residents who live near the drilling site in the Chapel Downs subdivision. One of the residents forwarded the e-mails to the Star-Telegram.

Commissioner Jim Hamel, in a Nov. 20 e-mail to city officials, said Sralla's opinion is "incorrect on several fronts." He also wrote that he and other commissioners were never told that a specific motion to deny was needed. "If we needed a separate denial to make a legally operative recommendation, it seems to me that should have been made clear to us long before now," Hamel wrote, calling Sralla's conclusion "simply absurd." Last week, Hamel said he stands by those statements.

However, Ken Baker, the city's planning director, told Yelverton in a text message that he believed that Sralla's opinion was factual. "I cannot read the commissioners' minds and thus do not know of their intentions," he wrote.

Bet he can read their minds now...

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