Engage D2: July 26, 2015

On Tuesday July 28
Regular Work Session for City Council

Special Called Meeting of the City of Denton City Council at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 215 E. McKinney Street, Denton, Texas

  • The reason that we are in a rush to amend our gas well ordinance is that our current moratorium on gas well drilling expires in mid August and cannot be extended in light of HB40 and the lawsuits still on file against the city related to the now repealed hydraulic fracturing ban.  If we are going to revise our current ordinance before new drilling operations begin in our city we will have to have them in place prior to the moratorium’s expiration.
  • In light of HB40 we do have to establish “commercially reasonable” local ordnances.  My concern is that we are so afraid of the State of Texas right now that our new ordinance is going to be so “commercially reasonable” that the ordinance is “people untenable” in that we are setting the stage for risk to our citizens in the decades to come.  Other than an outright ban (which we cannot have), the best safeguard against danger for our citizens now and in the future is distance.  We need to put distance – a buffer – between gas well drilling and our citizen’s and protected land uses.  In terms of a drilling ordinance this buffer equals the minimum setbacks for new wells and reverse setbacks from existing wells for new residential/protected use development.
    • Our existing ordinance establishes 1,200’ setbacks and 250’ reverse setbacks for residential and protected uses.
    • City staff and legal brought to Planning and Zoning for consideration a working draft of an amended ordinance with 1,000’ setbacks and 500’ reverse setbacks.  ( See section B of this document:file:///Users/chrisbriggs/Downloads/Exhibit%202-%20Gas%20Well%20Ordinance%20Clean.pdf )
    • Our Planning and Zoning Commission is recommending to council to approve an amended ordinance slashing setbacks to 750’ and reverse setbacks of 225’.   ( See section B of this P&Z redlined document:file:///Users/chrisbriggs/Downloads/Exhibit%201-%20Gas%20Well%20Ordinance%20Redline.pdf )
    • We will be taking big steps back in the wrong direction if City Council approves Planning and Zonings redline recommendation on setbacks.  These backward steps go far beyond the purpose of making Denton’s gas well ordinance “commercially reasonable” when you consider that there are established (in place for over 5 years) commercially accepted ordinances in cities like Dish which have minimum setbacks of >1,000 from residential and protected uses.  We should be using cities like this as our benchmark in my opinion.  I will be working hard on Tuesday afternoon/night to correct Planning and Zoning’s weak recommendations.  I am for development.  But I am for smart and safe development.  I am for rooftops.  But I am against rooftops right next to gas wells.  It is my opinion that Planning and Zoning has made a unanimous recommendation that clearly prioritizes development over people.  That is a huge mistake.  PEOPLE COME FIRST.
    • I invite you to watch the archived Planning and Zoning public meeting from July 22, 2015 to get some context for their final recommendation to council.  Forward to 1:26:00 http://denton-tx.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1145
    • It makes a huge difference when citizens contact their city council members in advance of these votes.  It makes a huge difference when we see and hear from citizens during council sessions.  If the subject of gas well drilling is important to you – no matter what side of the fence you are on – I highly encourage you to get engaged and let your voice be heard.  You can find contact information for all city council members and the mayor in the left hand navigation on this page:http://www.cityofdenton.com/government/city-council/city-council-members

Texas Municipal League Newly Elected Officials’ Orientation – July 24thand 25th in San Antonio, TX
I had the opportunity to attend the Newly Elected City Officials’ Orientation sponsored by the Texas Municipal League (TML) and the Association of Mayor, Councilmembers and Commissioners, which is an affiliate of TML.  Elected officials from all over the state attended the meeting.  This was an opportunity for me to enhance my knowledge of city government and sharpen my leadership skills.  In addition, the orientation offered the opportunity to network with elected officials from across Texas (like Arlington and Flower Mound) to learn how other cities are coping with similar challenges as those facing us here in Denton.

I attended sessions and training on open government, financial responsibility, council/staff relations, economic development, governing ethically, city regulation, meeting revenue challenges, media relations, and community building.  In addition I received my certificate of course completion for Open Meetings (required by state law for elected and appointed officials – see image below).

This orientation was voluntary and I did use taxpayer dollars to attend.  The total bill to taxpayers is $524.92 ($170 for the course; $354.92 for two nights hotel).  I paid airfare, ground transportation, and meals not covered by course fees out of my own pocket.  I do not take lightly the spending of taxpayer dollars but I feel that this investment will pay off for the city and my District 2 constituents.    I will be recommending to staff that all future newly elected council members attend this orientation.

Pop-Up City Hall (an idea for citizen engagement)
My family and I were recently on vacation in the Pacific Northwest and parts of British Columbia.  While in Vancouver, BC we attended a great street party (think of a mash-up of our community market, 35 Denton, and Arts and Jazz Fest held on a two mile stretch of road with what looked to be in the neighborhood of 10,000 people in attendance).   Merchants, vendors, and performers lined both sides of the street.  I happened across this Pop-Up City Hall (see picture below).  I was amazed at the level of engagement between citizens and staff.  I know our city has an informative presence at some events.   But look at the extent of the things you can get accomplished at Vancouver’s pop-up.  I see a lot of potential here in Denton for a similar program.  Think of the challenges we have engaging our existing citizens – the disconnect between citizens and city hall.  Now multiply it by 10 as you consider how fast Denton is growing both in terms of population and physical reach.  What kind of positive impact might a well-executed concept like a pop-up city hall for Denton have?  Where could it be effective?  The community market, downtown, in grocery store/shopping center parking lots, at events, in popular parks?  I would love to have your input and opinion.  This is something I am going to explore in my work on the Committee on Citizen Engagement where I serve with council members Gregory and Roden.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or ideas.  I am here for you District 2!

Your humble representative,

Keely G. Briggs

Council Member – District 2
215 E. McKinney Street
Denton, TX 76201
Phone: (940) 453-8377
Email:  keely.briggs@cityofdenton.com
Email:  briggsfordenton@gmail.com
Web:  briggsfordenton.org