Council members in the city of Denton, TX — which sits atop the Barnett Shale and last year became a battleground for the oil/gas industry and citizens opposed to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) — Tuesday night voted 5-1 to use zoning powers to regulate what drilling activity they can.

The city last year banned fracking. Lawsuits and pro-drilling legislation followed, and the ban was repealed (see Shale Daily, May 26). A moratorium on new drilling permits is expected to expire soon. Left pending were changes to the city’s existing gas well drilling ordinance while council tried to figure out how to make the rules comply with House Bill 40, which lawmakers approved earlier this year in response to Denton’s fracking ban (see Shale Daily, April 30; April 15).

Setbacks from well sites were the major concern in the revisions to the 2013 ordinance. The changes adopted Tuesday night reduce the previous setback of 1,200 feet in residential and commercial zoning districts to 1,000 feet. Reverse setbacks — those setting how far new buildings must be from existing wells — were set at 250 feet. The revised ordinance also includes new signage and noise abatement measures for drilling operators.

“The ordinance revisions seek to preserve surface property values, the character of neighborhoods, and other quality of life issues in Denton,” the city stated. “As such, Subchapter 22 of the Denton Development Code was streamlined and reorganized to provide a clear understanding of the gas well development requirements inside the city limits.

“In addition, various revisions and additions were made to regulations of Subchapter 35, as permitted by HB 40, including nuisance and noise mitigation, truck traffic, lighting, notice requirements and setbacks.”

Oil/gas industry advocate Ed Ireland, founder of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, spoke at the Tuesday meeting. When asked what he thought of the planned changes to the city’s drilling rules, he said, it’s a “tough ordinance, but for the most part it’s workable.”