Council members approved a 20-year conditional use permit (CUP) for oil wells on property at 167th Street and Waverly Road.
Council also formally approved rezoning of 156 acres from commercial and residential to agricultural in order to make way for the oil wells. Mayor Chris Morrow voted against the permit, but the rezoning was unanimous. The governing body approved the permit and the rezoning over the objections of planning commissioners, who recommended the council deny both requests.
During a May 18 meeting, the council and the property owner, Thomas Enterprises, reached a consensus that 25 of the 156 acres would be rezoned back to commercial, however.
Adam Cox, Gardner, said the rezoning should be sent back to planning commission for reconsideration, because the applicant suggested changes to the proposal commissioners considered.
“In order to allow necessary public input, the zoning should and can be resent to the planning commission,” Cox said.
Council member Kristina Harrison said the council approved the original proposal.
“I just want to be clear. We, as a council, overrode the actual plan that was presented to planning commission,” she said. “…What we did was exactly what went before the planning commission.”
The rezoning of 25 acres back to commercial will go through planning commission, and commissioners will hold a public hearing.
Cox was also opposed to giving Thomas Enterprises a 20-year CUP for oil drilling. The CUP will allow 55 oil and retention wells on the property.
Cox said the rezoning was handled improperly, the council’s discussion did not address safety concerns related to the oil wells, and that the wells would devalue surrounding property values.
“I have no desire to live within proximity to oil wells,” Cox said. “It has long-reaching implications.” Council members had the option to send the permit request back to the planning commission to reconsider or to override the commission’s recommendation with a two-thirds majority vote of the governing body.
Morrow said Cox made a very compelling case as to why the permit should be sent back to planning commission. However, other council members disagreed. The CUP council debated was for fewer wells than originally proposed.
“We’ve heard the planning commission’s reasoning for denial. Their basis for denial has not changed,” Lee said. What I would expect them to do is deny it again.”
Officials approve permit for oil wells in Gardner