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Two FM residents sue to stop gas drilling at Hilliard Field

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Two Flower Mound residents Friday filed a request for a declaratory judgment against the Town of Flower Mound and a permanent injunction against the town’s Oil and Gas Inspector in an attempt to stop the development of a gas pad on Hilliard Field.

The filing requests that the Court review the municipal ordinances and related oil and gas permitting policies to see if they are being applied in accordance with state law.

Flower Mound residents Virginia Simonson, board member of The Flower Mound Defense Fund, and Prakash Parameswaran, a homeowner in Town View Estates, are represented by Attorney Robert D. Hemphill. The suit was filed in Denton County on Friday.

“Plaintiffs are requesting the court to determine whether the Flower Mound oil and gas ordinance conflicts with state law and the town’s own zoning ordinances, both of which require notice and opportunity for public comment prior to zoning changes. Plaintiffs contend that the town’s current practices effectively enable oil and gas development to occur without citizen input and other protections required by state law,” Hemphill said.

The pair are seeking a declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction, as it relates to the drilling permit for gas pad development on Hilliard Field, which is located west of FM 2499 and south of FM 3040, bordered by neighborhoods, schools, churches and businesses.

Flower Mound officials told local media that they hadn’t seen the suit and declined to comment until they’ve had a chance to review it. But town attorney Terry Welch said Flower Mound would vigorously defend its oil and gas ordinances as being in full compliance with state law.

“As gas drilling activity accelerated in Flower Mound, including the prospect of 24 wells in the center of our community with homes and schools nearby, the citizens of Flower Mound began looking closely at our current ordinances,” said Simonson.

“We believe that our case will show that since 2005, the Council majority removed many of the protections provided by Flower Mound’s original oil and gas ordinances,” added Simonson. “We also plan to show that the protections were removed without the full understanding or majority support of Flower Mound residents.”

Simonson said the town staff opened itself to public scrutiny in January 2010, when the Council approved a resolution to allow large, industrial gas collection and produced water storage facilities in Flower Mound, in the face of overwhelming citizen opposition. That Council vote sparked citizen activism that resulted in a successful petition drive with more than 6,000 signatures collected against the storage facilities – and, ultimately, a new mayor and Council majority.

The new council majority, led by Mayor Melissa Northern, enacted a moratorium on June 7, 2010 for all new gas drilling applications and soon after appointed a citizen Advisory Board to review the Town’s Oil and Gas Ordinances.

Simonson believes that a suit requesting a review by a Court of Law is the only way to address whether current ordinances were legally and consistently applied, and to assess whether the ordinances afford adequate protection to residents, the environment and property values.

Simonson, along with a board of directors, has launched the non-profit Flower Mound Defense Fund www.fmshares.com/fmdf/. The Flower Mound Defense Fund is organized for the purpose of protecting and promoting the integrity, safety and beauty of residential neighborhoods in the Town of Flower Mound, and where necessary, opposing industrial and commercial development, including oil and gas drilling, that is detrimental to the long range preservation of the character and quality of existing residential neighborhoods and the overall residential character of the town.

Currently, the Defense Fund is accepting donations to help support the suit, Simonson said.

The Town of Flower Mound has approximately three weeks from the time it receives the complaint to respond.

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