Council updated on Oil and Gas Zoning Ordinance progress

City Solicitor Mark Jacob recently provided members of city council with an update on the progress he and other committee members have made on creating an ordinance to help regulate oil and gas drilling within certain areas of the city. Jacob has been working with St. Marys Planning Commission member Matt Quesenberry, city zoning officer Matt Pfeufer and city councilman Dan Hepner to review similar ordinances whose legality has already been upheld when challenged in court. They plan to present their findings to both members of city council and the planning commission no later than the beginning of April. Jacob informed council members on Monday that the committee had already met twice and had a final meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening. "We're going to recommend a joint session of the planning commission and city council again to present our findings and recommendations regarding [an ordinance]," Jacob said. "There's already been a first draft of an ordinance amendment, as well as additional information that we'd like to provide to council."Jacob remarked that he was upbeat about the progress the group has made so far. "I believe that one of the recommendations is probably going to be to bring in a professional regarding the zoning ordinance itself, though, because there are so many different nuances, if you will, regarding this," Jacob said. Hepner elaborated on Jacob's comments, explaining that the recommendation would be to have a professional review the actual writing of the ordinance. "I think we're more or less agreed on the content," Hepner said. Jacob added that one of the questions the group has is whether there are other viable options in addition to the one they are currently considering. Councilman Dick Dornisch inquired how the group had handled defining boundaries for areas where drilling would not be permitted. "I think you're going to find that we tried to keep it simple, but it's a very complicated issue because of the way that the city is arranged now, where some of the density is now, and the information we have on density. Again, it will all be in the report. It will touch on all of the different things that we've looked at and what our recommendation or comments are regarding those different options," Jacob said. Jacob and Hepner remarked that the group has tried to consider the issue from every angle in order to give the city the best recommendations on each of the different points under consideration.