Council discusses zoning ordinance amendment

Members of St. Marys City Council discussed a zoning ordinance amendment to the city's ordinance on oil and gas development during their meeting on Monday evening. The draft of the amendment was recommended by the St. Marys Planning Commission. City Zoning Officer Matt Pfeufer attended the council meeting and explained that the amendment draft was essentially the same as what was presented to council and the planning commission at the two groups' joint meeting on March 29. "A quick summary would be oil and gas wells are permitted by conditional use approval in the Rural Conservation, Industrial and Limited Industrial zoning districts. Supporting facilities such as compressor stations and processing plants are included under the same regulations. And a new section, section 459, is proposed to be added to the zoning ordinance, which covers oil and gas development. That section contains specific application requirements and minimum standards, and the amendment does not differentiate between shallow and deep wells, so it should cover all oil and gas well development," Pfeufer said. Councilman Dick Dornisch inquired whether the amendment was written in such a way that it could be modified over time, as necessary. Councilman Dan Hepner expressed some concern over portions of the amendment, specifically that it required drillers to have secured rights to a minimum lot size of 10 acres of land before they would be allowed to drill. "It's my opinion that setting this as a 10-acre minimum is a violation of the natural gas act. The gas act does not require a minimum surface area, and I believe by adding this to our ordinance, our ordinance then becomes more restrictive than the gas act," Hepner said. Hepner explained to council that he has already spoken to City Solicitor Mark Jacob, Planning Commission member Matt Quesenberry and Pfeufer about this issue. He also remarked that he had spoken to an area resident who has a number of shallow oil and gas wells, and that individual indicated that the amount of area required for drilling a vertical well varies in size from 100 to 150 feet.