Western Production Co., which has been trying to lease portions of the Ridglea North and Ridgmar neighborhoods in West Fort Worth since the summer, says it's suspending leasing in those neighborhoods because it can't secure a drill site. Secondarily, a substantial amount of opposition by neighbors to its proposed drill site "reinforced a bad vibe," says Mark Gordon, landman for Western. "It didn't help the situation."
Western has signed up about 250 leases, "ballpark," in both neighborhoods combined, Gordon said. The company is still obligated to honor its commitments to people who have signed their leases and sent them in, he notes. The company has been mailing bonus checks, property owners in the neighborhoods report.
Western also will still accept leases from property owners who send them in, and pay out the bonuses, Gordon said. "We will take them," he said. "But we're no longer in the active pursuit" of leases in those neighborhoods.
And "the reality is, beyond the bonus," property owners who have signed up won't see any future benefits unless Western is able to secure a drill site, Gordon said.
He said Western sought first to purchase its proposed site on Calmont Avenue west of the neighborhood, then lease it, but wasn't able to strike an agreement with the owner. "It was the price," he said.
There's a dearth of drilling sites in that area, he said, and he added that Western knows of no others that are available that could reach the neighborhoods. "There are no other alternatives," he said.
Western started sending offers in August to Ridglea North, said Jerry Lobdill, a Ridglea North owner who ultimately led opposition. Western quickly improved the financial terms first to a signing bonus of $3,500 per acre and a 20 percent royalty, and then to $4,000 per acre and a 25 percent royalty, he said.
But the sticking point for Ridglea North -- bounded by Interstate 30 on the north, Bryant Irvin Road on the east, Camp Bowie Boulevard on the south, and Lackland Road on the west -- was the drill site.
The Calmont site, near the "blue water tower," a local landmark, is well within the 600-foot minimum allowable distance to homes required by Fort Worth ordinance. In such situations, the drilling company is required to seek a "high impact" permit. Typically, drilling companies pair high impact petitions with waivers of the 600-foot radius signed by affected property owners; a petition without waivers would be unusual.
The neighborhood association's board didn't seek to enter into negotiation with Western. It said at a Sept. 19 meeting that it would oppose the site before the city. Lobdill, a retired physicist who isn't on the board but ended up passing out fliers door to door, says safety and concerns such as noise and truck traffic trumped any financial considerations. Some other neighborhoods have been able to negotiate such issues in lease agreements with energy companies, but the neighborhood association wasn't interested in the Calmont site, which Lobdill says was 30 yards from the nearest homes.
Lobdill says he is skeptical that neighborhood drilling can be accomplished without significant tradeoffs to safety and quality of life.
"I've only started my activism on this," he says. "They made a mistake by coming into my neighborhood and sending me a letter. I'm fully retired, and I've got plenty of time."
Gordon said the situation was frustrating to Western. "We prefer to not be in a high-impact situation, ever," he said.
(Photo: Proposed drill site between "blue water tower" and private swimming club, view from the West)