We're down in the big room at City Hall, where the City Plan Commission's taken over the big boy chairs and taped their nametags over the City Council's placards. As they wend their way through the less-thrilling zoning issues on the agenda, the smallish crowd in here is waiting patiently for the good stuff at the end of the docket: food trucks and gas.
That's XTO Energy's SUP application to set up for natural gas drilling at the west end of Hensley Field, and a first look at greasing the wheels for food trucks in the Arts District.
I see a few familiar faces from Dave Neumann's powwow between XTO and residents around Hensley Field -- including the helicopter pilots who said a drilling rig on XTO's proposed location would create a pretty decent obstacle to their takeoff path.
Cherelle Blazer, a Dallas-based gas drilling specialist with the Environmental Defense Fund, told me last week it's still not clear how enticing Dallas's stretch of the Barnett Shale will be to natural gas producers, but said recent history suggests any mineral rights that can be leased will be, unless enough people round up to prevent it. (The Barnett Shale figures heavily in a new EDF study on the impact of recent oil and gas drilling.)
Now that the Plan Commission's heard every last detail about a mixed-use development along the Lancaster Corridor, and a new DISD school in a failed subdivision in South Oak Cliff, we're onto the food trucks!
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Former council member Veletta Lill is here to help give this proposal a boost, speaking first. "we have been successful in building the cultural institutions" around the Arts District, but not the street life we imagined back when Dallas was planning the neighborhood. "We in the Arts District are very excited about the possibilities of having mobile food trucks in the neighborhood." She's brought friends from the Crow Collection of Asian Art and the AT&T Performing Arts Center, but nobody else is up for speaking with the commission.
Commissioner Sally Wolfish spins us a yarn about the good years she spent back in Philadelphia, where "the best food comes from food trucks." Vice-chair Michael Davis is on board as well, and with a voice vote the commission unanimously authorizes the next public hearing.
With a brief diversion into the proper height of shrubberies surrounding a drive-thru bank, we're onto gas drilling, which begins with friend of the show Walter Dueease from XTO, who jokes that he's "batting cleanup" here today after waiting through all the other presentations, though after sitting here all afternoon, we've gotta be down into the pitcher's slot here. He's running through the same gas drilling tutorial he shared with Hensley Field neighbors Tuesday night, explaining how XTO turns the wet rock in the shale into natural gas for you and me.
The commission is sitting rapt as Dueease offers details on how loud their drilling operation will be -- from 300 feet away (closer than any buildings are to the drill site), about 70 decibels, which he says is no louder than normal indoor conversation or the noise you hear driving down the highway. Now he's showing them pictures of big red trucks, and commissioners appear about as interested in this.