City to consider disseminating local oil, gas drilling regulations to neighboring municipalities

After passing an oil and gas drilling moratorium last March, city of Dexter officials on both the city’s planning commission and council have reached a point where they’re ready to disseminate regulations on those activities to Dexter, Webster, Scio and Lima Township, as well as other local agencies.

Those regulations are included in an amended pre-approval draft of a subset of the city of Dexter Master Plan, which is the guiding document for how officials consider the growth of the community in terms of various zoned developments, such as residential, commercial and industrial.

The city’s planning commission has been working with consultant Carlisle Wortman on drafting amendments and additions to city policy in response to local extraction activities.

It is unclear what effect, if any, changes to the master plan will have on oil and gas extraction in Dexter, as such activities are largely governed by United States oil and gas law, which is so expansive and complex that it’s a separate legal category akin to family law or copyright law. These governing statutes exist above local law in the upper stratospheres of state and federal law.

The city could affect the placement and construction of facilities, as well as the usage of certain local roadways based on whether they are designated as federal or local roads.

Dexter Planning Commissioner Jim Carty spoke at that body’s last meeting earlier this month about planning a strategy of restricting or impeding local oil and gas recovery efforts that centered on water-bodies.

“If you were going to pick a fight, (water) would be the one,” Carty said of the state of Michigan’s exception to siding with industrial interests historically when it comes to the issue of protecting water.

The city’s concern over groundwater, as well as ground-level waterways, is one shared by numerous groups, such as Ban Fracking Michigan, which reported on its site last June that Michigan Department of Environmental Quality rule changes on oil and gas extraction enacted earlier this year are “inadequate” for the purpose of protecting local natural resources.

A future working session of the city Planning Commission and City Council is tentatively planned for the discussion potential modifications to the Village Residential description and appropriate uses listed on Page 36, as well as the Baker Road Corridor Page regarding density and compatible zoning districts, as many local oil extraction rigs or “donkeys” are typically placed in or near residential developments, rural residential areas, and agricultural tracts.

Additions to the City’s Master Plan include:

—”Oil and Gas Drilling – The City of Dexter has experienced increased interest in oil and gas exploration and development, which the City has balanced with other community goals for existing and planned land uses, including natural resource protection.” to the City Planning Initiatives section (Page 13).

—”Protecting natural resources, including air, water and public land,” to the introductory paragraph (Page 19).

—”Assure that new development, and existing residential, commercial and industrial areas, protect the City’s small town character, open space, natural resources and recreational values of the City from activities and land uses related or ancillary to mineral, sand and gravel, and oil and gas exploration development,” to the City of Dexter Goals section (Page 21).

—”Protect the water quantity and quality of the City’s reviers, streams, groundwater, springs, lakes, ponds, wetlands, and creeks, particularly the Huron River and Mill Creek, as a single interconnected hydrologic system,” to the Natural Resources section (Page 22).

—”Evaluate the impact of traffic generated by existing development and new or expanded land uses, including extractive uses, and work toward improvements, compatibility with other existing and planned uses, and safety concurrent with new development and uses,” to the Transportation section (Page 32).

—”Evaluate impact of new development and new and expanded land uses on community services and facilities, such as police, fire and parks, and work to ensure there are adequate regulatory tools and resources available to support new development and uses while protecting existing and planned uses and environmental quality, in particular where uses involve a higher risk of release, discharge, or spill of hazardous substances, pollutants, or similar substances,” to the Community facilities section (Page 34).

—”Oil and gas exploration and development, and similar extractive activities, to the extent the activities and uses are sufficiently setback from incompatible uses, such as residential, office, commercial, recreation/conservation, and environmentally sensitive areas and natural resources, and the ancillary activities and uses generating potential nuisance effects such as traffic, lights, vibration, and noise will not be incompatible with surrounding existing or planned uses,” was added to the listing of appropriate uses in the Light Industrial Future Land Use category (Page 45 and 46).

—Water resources was redrafted to include language related to the conservation and protection of water bodies as a single interconnected hydrologic system (Page 77).

—Zoning Requirements modified to include, “To preserve and protect existing land uses, natural resources, air, land, water, and other significant natural features in accordance with the Master Plan.” (Page 87).

—A Bullet point under Zoning Requirements including, “To balance the increased interest in activities and land use related or ancillary to oil and gas exploration and development with other community goals to ensure the uses occur in a manner consistent with other existing and planned uses, and in a manner that protects the open space, natural resources, recreation, and other priorities in the City.” (Page 88).

—”Evaluate likely potential effects of mineral, sand and gravel, and oil and gas exploration and development on the public health, safety and welfare, and review existing zoning and other police power ordinances to ensure they balance the need for those uses with their effects on other existing and planned uses in a manner that furthers and protects community goals and priorities, including land use, land preservation, and the protection of natural resources and water quantity and quality, transportation, and safety and community facilities and services,” under Zoning Adjustments (Page 88).

—Item 2, “Adopt regulations that recognize the connection of groundwater and surface water, and include limitations that protect, and prevent pollution, impairment or diminishment of the quantity and quality of available water resources, including aquifers, springs, rivers, creeks, ponds, and wetlands, for existing and future water needs for residential recreation, commercial, industrial, and for protection and preservation of water bodies and their natural resources and uses,” and added under Zoning Adjustment (Page 89).

—Item 4, “Review ordinances to ensure the City requires sufficient disclosure of information and permits, with sufficient conditions, to allow the fire and police to provide an emergency response adequate to protect the public health, safety, and welfare to the spill or other release of hazardous materials or other dangerous substances or pollutants during transport of use,” and added under Zoning Adjustment (Page 89).

For more on this and other stories pertaining to City of Dexter governance, see our coverage of the Monday, August 24, 2015 City Council meeting throughout next week.

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