Salem panel: Focus on monitoring shale industry, leases

SALEM – The Rules & Ordinances Committee of city council reviewed two separate ordinances dealing with the shale oil and gas industry Tuesday, choosing to focus for now on a monitoring program related to resource extraction and waste disposal.

“We’re trying to go at it from an angle of protection,” Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey said.

Dickey met with a pair of attorneys, whom she said are not related to her, and reviewed the two proposals she presented. The one proposal was based on a monitoring and mitigation ordinance approved by the city of Athens in June this year.

The other proposal would restrict a property owner from signing a lease agreement that would grant surface drilling rights without a permit from the city of Salem. The permit process would require public hearings and be treated as a conditional use for a property. The committee chose to put that idea on hold for now.

The committee discussed the drilling issue previously and considered a proposal to restrict drilling to properties in the M2 industrial zone which ended up before council, but was rejected. The discussion then moved to the idea of attacking from the lease standpoint, before one is in place, since the state has no control over where drilling can take place until a lease is signed. Any leases already signed would not be affected.

Dickey said the city’s goal isn’t to make a judgement about the oil and gas industry, but to protect the residents from any bad effects related to the oil and gas industry. She said they don’t want to discourage industries from coming to the city.

She said the ordinance passed in Athens hasn’t been challenged like the ordinances which tried to restrict where drilling can take place, which is a power reserved for the state alone. The imposition of a monitoring fee, though, could help protect the residents by paying for a monitoring program of the air, water and ground. The program could help pay for fire or police equipment required to respond to a spill or emergency at a facility and provide training for first responders.

She said the city health department could be involved, also, and have fees cover the cost of analysis or monitoring. She said the larger companies are used to putting money aside for monitoring costs. She said they already do it for roads in the townships.

They would also have to supply the city with information on employees, enabling the city to collect income tax.

Dickey said she took out a section dealing with road maintenance, saying that would be discriminatory against the companies. She said instead they would have to seek out agreements with the companies on a case-by-case basis.

City Planning & Zoning Officer Patrick Morrissey questioned why they wouldn’t want something in writing to make sure city streets are protected. She said a lot of the main routes in Salem are state routes, which fall under the jurisdiction of the state. She also said if they had something in an ordinance, they would have to enforce it against all truck traffic.

Committee Chair Councilman Rick Drummond said they should tailor the ordinance to Salem’s needs, looking at it as a conditional use and figuring out who would be responsible for what.

The committee decided to have city Law Director Brooke Zellers put something together and then have the mayor and service/safety director attend a committee meeting to hammer out the details.

In other business, the committee recommended a change to an ordinance dealing with a requirement for a signed diagram by a surveyor, engineer or architect registered in Ohio for an exterior building project. The ordinance passed in the early 1970s previously required the signed plot diagram for any project valued at more than $5,000.

“I think we need to look at raising that amount to make it more convenient for the people,” Brown said.

The proposal being forwarded to council says that exterior projects that are permanent, non-moveable structures greater than 120 square feet with a completion value of more than $10,000 require a signed diagram by a surveyor, engineer or architect registered in the state of Ohio.

Drummond had suggested changing the amount to match today’s values, possibly to greater than $25,000, but Morrissey said he didn’t think it was necessary to go that high. He said a lot of the problems they face are because nobody knows where their property lines are located. For the cost of a plot diagram, which could range from $200 to $600 or more from a surveyor, they could find out.

He explained there have been situations where a property owner started a garage and then found out they were partially on the neighbor’s property. He suggested the committee take a broader look and look at sheds and their sizes. He also said that going up to $7,500 would probably be enough to fix the problem.

His question was what to do with people who don’t check on the property line location before putting something up, prompting Dickey to suggest they add language requiring a diagram for permanent, non-moveable structures.