Drilling to Be Grandfathered Despite Annexation by Sand Springs

I attended last night’s meeting of the Sand Springs Planning Commission.  Six of the seven commissioners were present.

The staff recommended that the Commission vote to recommend to the City Council to annex the 109 acres south of Weaver Road and to zone it RE — (which means Residential Estate).  This would be more restrictive than the current Tulsa County zoning of Agricultural.  The staff representative stated that the other two options open to the Commission were to annex the land and zone it AG (Agricultural) or to deny the request for annexation.

Several of the 16 home owners spoke saying that they wanted to be annexed by the City of Sand Springs in order to have better water, better roads, access to police and fire protection, and the opportunity to vote and to participate in city government.

Lee Levinson, the attorney for International Energy Corporation, reminded the Commission that the law was on the side of the mineral estate and stated that all the necessary drilling permits had been filed and drilling was to commence as soon as the drill sites were prepared and a rig could be moved on location.  He emphasized that drilling is proceeding in downtown Fort Worth in the Barnett Shale play and in Oklahoma City too.

Bruce Foster, the petroleum engineer for the Company, displayed an aerial photograph upon which lines had been superimposed showing the outline of the oil lease, a seismic survey line, and fault lines.  He pointed to the spots on the map where drill sites were most likely to be located.  He further explained that plans could change because of the ongoing nature of the information gathering process in preparation for drilling.

The Commission members discussed the topic, stressing that their job was only to vote whether or not to annex the property into the city.  They emphasized that it was not their job to stop drilling.  In fact, the Commission pointed out that drilling was merely a current land use and the drilling was just like an animal (i.e., a horse or a cow) that would be grandfathered in under current land use.  They stated that even though drilling was prohibited within the incorporated city limits of Sand Springs, it would be allowed because of the active nature of the oil lease.  They noted that RE zoning would prevent agricultural use of the land when it changes hands.

The Commission pointed out that they would just be annexing the land south of Weaver Road and east of 149th Street.  They would not be annexing the street.  They would not be improving the water lines.

So what is the downside for the City of Sand Springs if they annex the 109 acres south of Weaver Road?  None, as long as they allow the drilling to be grandfathered in.  The benefit for Sand Springs is that they stand to gain 16 additional households — KACHING!  KACHING!

What do the residents south of Weaver Road stand to gain?  Higher taxes!  Potential loss of land use if their zoning is changed from Agricultural to Residential Estate.  No more horses!  No more chickens!

As a real estate agent, my opinion is that the landowners would stand to lose value if they lose their agricultural zoning.  That’s why people move to the country.  This lovely spot of the world just happens to be on one of the highest peaks in Tulsa County.  Most of the people up on Pratt’s Peak enjoy the country, which is why they moved up there (despite the oil wells).

The Planning Commission voted to recommend to the Sand Springs City Council on Monday, September 8th that the City of Sand Springs annex the 109 acres and zone it Agricultural.

Oh boy!  In my opinion this is a Pyrrhic victory for the landowners.  They now will get the privilege of paying higher taxes and still have drilling in their back yards too!  Lucky them!