If you're not sitting down here in the Council Chambers at City Hall right now, then you're missing one of the fine ways to spend a Thursday afternoon in Dallas: sitting in on a meeting of the City Plan Commission.
We've already covered student foot traffic across roads near schools, the size of trucks drawn to recycling buy-back centers and what became an almost comically in-depth look at the history and practices of the Masonic Lodge. It's a little like that call-in show on KERA where you can just ask any old thing and the guy at the microphone will humor you with an answer.
Judging from the familiar faces in the crowd, though, it's a good bet they're talking about gas drilling here today, if we ever crawl our way down to the bottom of the agenda. While we're probably three weeks from the city council's look at XTO Energy's first drill site application (denied here last month), the plan commission's getting its first look at another XTO application, for a site on 3.7 acres leased from the city just north of Joe Pool Lake.
(Incidentally, a whole crowd of unhappy Freemasons just walked out after the commission narrowly voted to deny, with prejudice, their application for a new lodge -- despite repeated assurances that "we are not the Sigma Nus.")
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Not in the house today: Commissioner William Peterson, one of a two-member subcommittee charged with working with XTO to fine-tune their proposal before they reach the full commission. Mike Anglin, the other commissioner on that subcommittee, and the guy whose district is home to both these proposed sites, is here today as well. Also in the room: a couple of suits from XTO, a small handful of gas drilling activists, and noted cheesesteak fan commissioner Sally Wolfish. And now you're up to speed. After the jump, the commission's finally gotten to XTO's proposal. Promise.
Since the Masons left, the room's nearly emptied out -- been a long meeting, more than three hours long before the gas drilling even came up. But here we are now, with Dallas Cothrum, Raymond Crawford, Jenny Land and Marianna Griggs, to jam on another could-be first drill site in Dallas.
Things got a little wild here as five commissioners (Tarpley, Schwartz, Wally, Bagley and Wolfish) recused themselves en masse before the application came up. "Wait a minute, I don't think we're going to have a quorum," chairman Joe Alcantar hollered at them, before being assured we didn't need a quorum in here for the individual agenda item. If you're scoring at home, seven commissioners are still sitting behind the horseshoe.
Mark McCord's kicking us off with a little opposition, offering "a little information I've discovered since [the last meeting] that I think is very pertinent." He says surface water's incredibly important as a water source around Texas, and is concerned about the impact of fracking fluid that could seep into the lake. Reminding the commission of their vote on the last proposal, he says, "I would like to know what's different about this XTO Belt Line permit."