Rifle officials mull a 30-acre annexation | AspenTimes.com

Rifle officials mull a 30-acre annexation

Heidi RiceGarfield County correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

RIFLE Cindy and Bradley Skinner may consider moving from their East 12th Street home if a large subdivision and a potential oil and gas well pad come into the neighborhood.The Skinners are part of a group of neighbors who are getting together for a neighborhood meeting to talk about the proposed Rifle Heights subdivision and what the impacts might be Tuesday night.Of utmost concern right now is that a four-acre parcel of the subdivision, located between 12th and 16th Streets and Whiteriver and Anvil View Avenues, could potentially be the site of an oil and gas well pad. The subdivision is not currently within city limits but is intending to seek annexation.”It would block the view and I don’t know what the health issues would be,” said Cindy Skinner. “I’ve been here 23 years – before McDonald’s was even in Rifle. I don’t know if we could have any effect about the [oil and gas development], but I’m not even thrilled about the homes going in there.”The Rifle Heights subdivision is proposed for 95 lots on the 30-acre piece of property that will likely be built in two phases, according to John Elmore, developer and owner of the property.Elmore said he has no control over what happens with the mineral rights and whether a well pad is put on the property.”We have absolutely nothing to do with that,” Elmore said. “Those [rights] were reserved when the property was sold to us. We’re hoping that nothing will happen, but we don’t have control over it.”Elmore said that he intends to let prospective homebuyers know that an oil and gas well pad could be located on the property. “I will tell [homebuyers] that it’s a possibility, but it’s the same possibility that could happen anywhere in Rifle or in Garfield County,” he said.The previous owners of the land leased the mineral rights on the four-acre parcel in the southwest corner of the property to Apollo Energy, which has a number of leases in the area. Lou Oswald, operations manager for Apollo, said that while the company acquires leases with the intent to drill, the odds of production on such a small area [in the proposed Rifle Heights subdivision] were pretty slim and that drilling activities in north Rifle have so far not proven to be particularly productive.”Because we hold that lease, there is the possibility that we could drill that lease,” Oswald said. “But the odds of drilling wells in or near the town of Rifle are still iffy.”Even if drilling activities should occur, Oswald said with directional drilling, it could be done from as far as a half mile away. As a property owner himself with five ranches in the Rifle area, he said he is also concerned about the impacts and is willing to work with the neighbors.”I not only understand, but I care,” Oswald said. “And I’m willing to work with folks from an impact standpoint, but we have to be reasonable. I will try at the end of the day to keep everybody happy. I understand their concerns and I’m not here to shove anything down everybody’s throats.”Assistant City Manager Matt Sturgeon said he doesn’t see any drilling activity on the property – or anywhere within city limits for that matter – happening anytime soon. “I don’t think it’s imminent, although there is always the possibility (drilling activities) could come to town,” Sturgeon said.Brian Macke, director of the state Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates drilling permits, said that so far there are no pending permits for drilling on the property.”They would have to get their permits from us, although operations may have to go to the local jurisdiction for special use permits,” Macke said. “We regulate operations, but local governments can regulate land use.”He also pointed out that regulations require a certain setback of drilling rigs from residential units.”We would talk to the local government designee and there is a 10-day (public) comment period,” Macke said. “And then we would talk to the local government designee about those comments.”But the neighbors in the surrounding area are still concerned and are planning a neighborhood meeting next week to discuss their thoughts.”The purpose of the neighborhood meeting is information exchange, where folks can find out what is going on and voice their opinions and concerns in an informal setting,” said Jim Bell, who lives on Anvil View Avenue. “We will try to separate fact from fiction, myth from reality, so people will know what to expect from the proposed annexation. That way they can, if they wish, offer informed opinions at planing commission and city council.”The preliminary plans will go before the Planning and Zoning Commission at 7 p.m. April 24. The owners will seek annexation of the property into the city and if all approvals are granted, hope to break ground sometime this summer.

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