Tag Archive for land use regulations

Council gives thumbs up to “local control” — or not

A funny thing happened at “the Forum,” that is, City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Toward the end of the meeting, assistant city manager Sandi Seader reported on the 100-plus bills in this year’s state Legislature that she is tracking on behalf of Longmont. She wanted direction from council.

Seader is tracking one bill that proposes to make installing residential fire suppressant sprinkler systems compulsory throughout the state.

An ever-lugubrious member of the council’s majority spoke passionately about the importance of “local control.” She’d just hate to see anyone building a home in Longmont being forced to install a ceiling sprinkler system just because the state says so. Unanimous agreement. Local control, yes!

Later, HB 1277 was described (kinda). Sandy paused, then meekly agreed with a usually quiet councilwoman who had quickly opined, “This doesn’t change anything.” Two other councilmen agreed.

The bill’s title is: “Concerning Strengthening Local Governments’ Regulation of Oil and Gas Operations, and, in Connection Therewith, Strengthening Local Government’s Zoning and Land Use Authority Over Oil and Gas Operations.”

In the real world, this bill changes the very basis of the state’s pre-emption of all meaningful local control of oil and gas drilling and extraction.

It simply and succinctly says that “local government regulation of the impacts of land use and development (including oil and gas operations) furthers the state’s interest in orderly land use and environmental protection.”

Without HB1 1277, Colorado state law and case law sustains that the extraction of oil and gas is so vitally important to the state, that only the state can regulate it. The viewpoint of the tyrannical Colorado Oil & Gas Commission is that home rule and local control must be pre-empted.

Without HB 1277,

Can the city zone hazardous multiple gas well pads to the city’s heavy industrial zone? Nope.

Require setback distances from wells to actually protect the people in homes, hospitals, churches, schools, parks, playgrounds, surface waters and home property values? Nope.

Refuse to allow large gas wells on city open space and wildlife sanctuaries?  Nope.

Prohibit open pits of toxic waste water?  Nope.

Set noise levels?  Nope.

Monitor and regulate toxic emissions?  Nope.

Inspect the well and well site?  Nope.

Have city fees and/or fines to recoup city expenses of monitoring and inspecting the well?  Nope.

All of the above local land use and zoning prerogatives are currently pre-empted for oil and gas wells.

HB 1277 clearly states that “an operator” (oil and gas corporation) “is also subject to zoning and land use authority and regulation by local governments, as provided by law.”

The summary of HB 1277 states that it “clarifies that oil and gas operations are subject to local governments’ authority, as well as the authority of the oil and gas commission. The bill establishes that oil and gas operations are subject to the same local control as is established for other mineral extractions.” That is, a lot of Local Control.

HB 1277 concludes: “Safety clause. The general assembly hereby finds, determines and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety.”

HB 1277 is on one side of one piece of paper.

An ever-bellicose council member thundered: “This bill does NOTHING! We gave Representative Jones (the bill’s sponsor) a whole long list of things we wanted. This is only one sheet of paper.” Holding and shaking the piece of paper above his head he roared, “It’s not worth the paper it’s written on!” and tossed it aside.

Council voted to not support HB 1277. Instead, it was relegated to the bin of the hundred or so bills on Ms. Seader’s city watch list.

Strong local control over home fire sprinkling systems? Hell, yes! Longmont’s government lobbies for it!

Stronger local control over oil and gas drilling and wells? Hell, no!  Longmont’s council will not endorse.

It really would be funny, if it weren’t so pathetic.

Let’s all, as individuals, contact the House Local Government Committee members to support HB 1277.   It is scheduled for hearing Monday afternoon.

Contact information is available at LongmontROAR.org.

Let your voice be heard

The City of Longmont is in the process of developing revised and additional regulations covering oil and gas drilling within city limits. Applications for permits are expected following a 120-day moratorium that is scheduled to end on April 17, 2011.

Oil and gas drilling at Fairview and SH 119

Draft regulations were intended to be published on January 31, 2011. It was clear from the outset that a 120-day moratorium was inadequate for the amount of work that is required to craft regulations that would protect the health, safety, and well-being of citizens and residents. City staff is now making changes to its schedule in order to meet the arbitrary moratorium expiration on April 17, 2011.

At the January 24, 2011, city council meeting, City Manager Gordon Pedrow announced that instead of releasing draft regulations on January 31, “options” would be made available to council members, board members and the public.

January 31 came and went without “options.” On February 2, the city released a document that was not the promised “options” (whatever those might have been), but a 60+ page document titled “City of Longmont Oil and Gas Regulations Update.”

Mr. Pedrow indicates that the options, now known as “questions,” will be delayed until a Public Open House on February 6, 2011, to be held in the lobby of the City Council Chambers between 4:30 and 6:30 PM. No one will have an opportunity to see these “questions” until that time. There will be no opportunity to reflect on their meaning or potential implications for the future of Longmont.

The city has created a highly controlled environment for the release of questions. It will establish parameters and attempt to squeeze the public into a narrow band of choices that reflect the choices that the city’s attorneys and staff believe are acceptable.

It is important that members of the community maintain their own integrity on this issue and insist that the city respond to their demands and requirements.

Following the Public Open House, at 7:00 PM in Council Chambers, a joint meeting of the Board of Environmental Affairs, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and the Water Board (The Super Committee) will be held.

Information will be presented by city staff to the Super Committee and questions will be taken from the Super Committee. At that point, the public will have an opportunity to be heard in the same manner as at council meetings, a 3-minute Public Invited to be Heard.

Following the Public Invited to be Heard segment members of the Super Committee will be electronically polled with “multiple choice” style preferences to pre-determined questions. These questions may or may not be the same as those given to the public.

Mr. Pedrow has indicated that the responses from the public and the Super Committee will be compiled and presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission on February 15. That meeting is held in the Council Chambers at 7:00 PM and also has a Public Invited to be Heard Segment.

On February 21, the results of all three events will be presented in a Study Session to the City Council in the form of Draft Regulations. At that point the council may address an extension of the moratorium, provide additional input as to what should be included in the Regulations Ordinance, or accept the draft regulations as presented.

Barring any extension of the moratorium, the First Reading of new regulations will occur on March 13 and the Second Reading and Public Hearing will be held on March 27, 2011. If the ordinance passes, it will become law in the City of Longmont effective 10 days later and applications for permits will be accepted beginning April 18, 2011.