by Pam Zubeck
At an hour-long meeting this morning, four Colorado Springs City Council members kicked off the work of a task force formed to formulate a possible ordinance to dictate rules and regulations for oil and gas development within the city limits.
One would think this would be a topic in which the business community would have an intense interest. But nobody showed up today from the Regional Leadership Forum, which in the past has professed its commitment to being involved in city matters. More on that later.
The task force was triggered by Houston-based Ultra Resources' acquisition of 18,000 acres on the east side, where it wants to drill. The property is part of the Banning Lewis Ranch, which was annexed in 1988. Only a few hundred acres actually were developed. Ultra already has permission to drill three test wells in El Paso County, and reportedly has executed leases on gobs more county land. Check out our latest report on drilling.
Councilor Val Snider will chair the city task force. Other council members taking part are Brandy Williams, Angela Dougan and Bernie Herpin. While Herpin didn't attend today's meeting, Lisa Czelatdko was on hand, and offered to provide support in getting some nuts-and-bolts chores done, such as helping to write a press release seeking applicants for the task force.
The panel didn't decide today how large the task force will be, but discussed the kinds of representatives it is seeking, such as someone from the oil and gas industry, an environmental advocate, a neighbor to the drilling field and, perhaps, someone from the El Paso County Health Department.
Oddly missing from the list was someone from the Regional Leadership Forum, a loose-knit group of business interests that muscled into the city-owned Memorial Health System lease debate this fall, as the process headed into its final lap.
Though RLF members didn't engage in the previous Memorial Citizens Commission process, which spanned nine months in 2010, its last-minute involvement won support from Mayor Steve Bach and several Council members. As Bach said at that time, "The point is not that they're experts [in health care], but that they're leaders in the community."
With drilling potentially being a major business here before too long ... could we watch the RLF swoop in late again? Aimee Cox, liaison to the Council for Bach, didn't say a word about a business representative or Leadership Forum person being on the task force.
Snider said after the meeting a seat on the panel will not be reserved for the Leadership Forum. However, he added, members of the forum can apply and compete like anyone else for appointment.
In other matters, City Attorney Chris Melcher gave an update of court action involving Ultra, saying the company's bid to set aside the city's 1988 annexation agreement has been transferred from bankruptcy court in Delaware to Denver. The annexation agreement calls for the owner to fund streets, fire stations, police stations and parks under a master plan that outlines residential and commercial development in some detail.
The company filed its complaint there recently, and the city will file its response on Dec. 23, Melcher said.
"The bankruptcy court will not necessarily be able to rule whether Banning Lewis Ranch is part of the city or not," Melcher said. "They'll look at whether the terms or conditions of the agreement apply to that parcel." He added that de-annexation is a legislative decision that would have to be made by Council; a bankruptcy court isn't authorized to make such a decision.