A. Lee Graham
No one walked away satisfied this week as the Fort Worth City Council approved changes to the city’s gas line compressor regulations.
“Nobody is going to be perfectly happy with it,” said District 5 Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, whose motion the council unanimously approved.
The zoning piece of the puzzle now goes to the city’s Zoning Commission, expected to consider amending the zoning ordinance at its Sept. 11 meeting before the council considers final approval of the amendment at its Oct. 15 regular meeting.
Gas line compressors, which pressurize gas to be transported through a pipeline, have drawn concerns from residents regarding potential noise, safety and pollution issues.
Some gas companies have expressed satisfaction with existing city regulations, but some residents, particularly those in some east side neighborhoods, have blasted those rules as not stringent enough. Several council meetings and community open houses have resounded with homeowner pleas for tighter restrictions.
This week’s council vote would approve compressors in areas zoned for industrial use and planned development. While the zoning aspect awaits final approval, other aspects of the issue received final approval. The rules now require 1,000-foot setbacks in non-industrial planned development districts and 600-foot setbacks with waivers by protected-use property owner or by the council. Protected uses include schools and hospitals.
Until this week’s council vote, city regulations required a 300-foot setback if the stations are fully enclosed and 600 feet if not fully enclosed.
And in a motion opposed by several residents attending the council meeting, the rules grandfather all 41 sites citywide where compressors already operate.
“Please leave out grandfathering,” said Libby Willis, chairwoman of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods’ gas drilling task force, before the council vote.
Bivens said she commended residents and the “sense of neighborhood” that’s underscored frequently contentious debate.
“I salute your diligence, and I have been very moved by it,” Bivens said.
District 4 Councilman Danny Scarth acknowledged what appeared to be a somewhat unsatisfying end to the public debate.
“It’s not always easy to balance all the issues and try to get to something that’s correct, and oftentimes we end up with both sides that aren’t very happy, and that’s probably the case we have now,” Scarth said.