Oil, Gas Exploration Moratorium Goes Into Effect After City Council Vote

Natural resource recovery companies operating within the City of Dexter will have to contend with a moratorium on such activities within the Dexter city limits after the City Council voted unanimously to approve that measure during Monday’s regular meeting.

Those who oppose natural resource recovery in close proximity to residential and agricultural land on principal should note that the city isn’t banning such activities outright, but rather is buying itself a minimum of six months to craft local policies to mitigate any threat to the general welfare of Dexter residents.

As it stands there is no language in the City of Dexter’s Master Plan, which was adopted on June 25, 2012.

It was brought to local officials attention that property owners within the Dexter Business and Research Park have signed leases authorizing companies to drill for oil and natural gas on local land.

As stated in Community Development Manager Michelle Aniol’s letter to council, the intent of the moratorium is “to allow the City an opportunity to investigate the likely effects of oil and gas operations on the local public health, safety and welfare, and … (to) amend the Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance, in order to develop and establish appropriate regulations, as authorized in the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (PA 110 of 2006, as amended).”

The resolution that council approved was crafted by Doug Lewan of planning consultancy Carlisle Wortman Associates and City Attorney Scott Munzel.

Aniol clarified the extent of the city’s ability to regulate natural resource recovery. The state Department of Environmental Quality issues the permits for what the companies that lease the resource recovery rights from property owners do underground. The city has the ability to regulate what goes on above ground, unlike townships.

“That does not mean however that you can exclude it,” Aniol warned. “You can work in the master plan ways to identify procedures, location … where it could take place provided it meet certain standards. But as far as the drilling process that goes on underground, that’s a matter for the state.”

There is an option to extend the moratorium past the six month mark, but the consensus at the meeting was that six months should be sufficient to make the necessary amendments to the city’s master plan to protect the Dexter community.

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