Planning board to consider ordinance restricting drilling to industrial zones

SALEM – The city Planning Commission will meet at 4:30 p.m. today to consider a proposed city ordinance restricting the drilling of oil and gas wells in the city to M2 industrial zones and banning them within 500 feet of a structure.

The legislation already had a first reading by city council on July 8, but any change to zoning requires either approval or disapproval by the Planning Commission after a 30-day waiting period. To take effect, the ordinance will require two additional readings by council, with a vote on the final reading.

When asked why the city was even considering such an ordinance, since the state of Ohio retains control over the permitting of oil and gas wells, city Planning & Zoning Officer Patrick Morrissey described the proposal as preparation for the future.

“We don’t know what we’re going to be faced with down the road,” he said.

Under the heading Oil and Gas Extraction, the section to be added to the zoning ordinance says “In accordance with the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), NAICS 2111 Oil and Gas Extraction, a vertical bore well or a fracking horizontal bore well shall be considered an industrial activity and shall be restricted to M-2 Industrial Zoning Districts and shall not be conducted within 500 feet of any existing building or structure.”

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website section on oil and gas, state legislation approved in 2004 “states that the Division of Mineral Resources Management has sole and exclusive authority to regulate the permitting, location, and spacing of oil and gas wells within the state. Further, the act states that the regulation of oil and gas activities is a matter of general statewide interest that requires uniform statewide regulation and that the Oil and Gas Law and rules adopted under it constitute a comprehensive plan with respect to all aspects of the locating, drilling, and operation of oil and gas wells within Ohio, including site restoration and disposal of wastes from those wells.”

Morrissey said his office suggested the ordinance after having conversations with other people regarding oil and gas drilling.

He said the state makes the decision on permits and drilling but the city was trying to take some control.

“The city is showing good intention that they’re trying to look out for the residents,” he said.

When asked why he thought it was necessary, Morrissey said, “I think we may be facing a problem with drilling later on and we need to be prepared.”

The majority of the M-2 heavy industrial zone is located near the railroad tracks on the west side and southwest side of the city, such as the former Eljer site and the Salem Industrial Park area.