If you watched Flower Mound Town Council’s Oct. 15th meeting you were treated to a marvelous example of how elected reps can go to bat in defense of their town.
The first item on the agenda was Atmos Pipeline Texas, a 6000 mile long, high pressure transmission pipeline that extends from far west Texas, to Carthage in east Texas and from the Red River all the way south to Houston.
Company reps were asked to address the Council on the need for “leakage surveys” on 52 year-old pipelines that crisscross our town. It quickly became evident that the company was prepared to cut a 50-foot wide swath of roadway, 3.5 to 5 feet in depth, along 12.3 miles of “easement” that allows them access to the pipes that distribute gas to thousands of homes. The pipeline starts in Lakeside DFW, goes through the Sanctuary, through the middle of Wellington, up through Tour 18 and through the golf course.
A major question arose from Mayor Hayden about how Atmos plans to clear the trees. He wanted to know if they were going to have a logging operation that goes through the town, 25 feet on each side and mow down numerous trees.
The pipeline rep began by saying they have the legal right to clear the land in the easement portion of roads and, in fact, that property owners are often in conflict with the pipeline when they make landscape improvements. (As I watched this on the town’s cable station, I was beginning to feel my temperature rise.) He said there’s no equivocation in the language; they have the right to clear a path to the pipes. That’s all he had to say to get under the skin of this Council.
Hayden came back forcefully by referring to them as “negligent,” in waiting so long to inform town leaders of a major operation to be started within a couple of weeks. Councilmember Kendra Stephenson quickly followed up, saying the info was on a local website and was communicated to some HOA’s before anyone on the Council was informed.
Mayor Hayden then introduced Senator Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound resident and veteran State Senator representing this town and many other cities and towns in the state. She stated that Texas lost 300 million trees last year because of the drought. “And now they’re going to come in and kill perfectly healthy trees,” she said indignantly. Also chiding the company for not providing adequate notice to elected officials, she added, “I found out that our HOA didn’t know about it, but our golf course people knew about it for 2 weeks.”
A bit later, the Atmos rep talked about “encroachment agreements” that a property owner would be asked to sign if a fence, storage shed, etc. was interfering with the easement. Hayden wanted to know what happens if the owners refuse to sign the agreement, or to allow the company to tear down their trees. The response was that the company has a property right that they paid for years ago. When the mayor fired back that they should have been more diligent in dealing with this, the rep retorted, “I don’t think that impacts my legal rights though!” That was the wrong answer because it opened up a broadside by Mr. Hayden. “What about your moral rights?” he snapped back. What about your rights to the citizens of this town? What about putting the residents first? Do you have a contingency plan? This seems to be the only thing you can do. ‘It’s my rights, I don’t give a crap about your town; I’m going to bulldoze it.’”
I was off the couch and on my feet cheering for this Mayor and Town Council as I watched them defend our town against a large company that had dropped the ball on a very vital issue, yet felt they could come in at the last minute and bully us into clearing the way for them (pun intended).
Every councilmember was prepared with questions that had not been addressed by the company in advance. Councilman Steve Dixon was studiously ready with a PowerPoint presentation illustrating areas to be affected and offering alternatives to the massive tree loss we were about to sustain. Ms. Stephenson is to be commended for her very impressive details on easement rules and for putting the entire imbroglio in perspective with one sentence: “It’s hard to imagine Flower Mound with a 50 foot wide bald spot from the northwest corner to the southeast corner.”
I couldn’t have been more proud of the way the Council and Senator Nelson defended our town against a powerful company that seemed to think we were pushovers. They’re not likely to make that mistake again!