Delano developer objects to proposal for oil drilling nearby

09/12/2013 9:15 AM

08/06/2014 8:39 AM

A prominent Delano developer says he’ll bow out if the city of Wichita drills for oil near his properties.

Chris Ruffin’s letter on behalf of Ruffin Properties to the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission was the centerpiece of a brief commission meeting Thursday.

The commission approved a City Council request to defer the oil drilling proposal by Trek AEC a month. So far, Trek officials have not produced all the information the city wants in its vetting process. The company responded to a city request for proposals for possible drilling for oil under Century II.

City Council members said Thursday that withdrawing the city’s application for a conditional use permit to drill in Delano remains an option.

After the meeting, Ruffin told The Eagle the drilling proposal would devastate Ruffin Properties’ plans for its land and buildings nearby.

Specifically, it would cost the company its lease with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, one of the biggest business tenants in the Delano District west of downtown. Ruffin Properties also would shelve plans for an environmentally friendly office building nearby, and would not follow through with plans for a restaurant at 520 W. Douglas.

“With our government tenant, we had to jump through a lot of environmental hoops just to get them, do a lot of things for them,” Ruffin said. “If there’s an oil well directly behind them, there is no way they would renew. Delano would lose a huge tenant and it would be a PR nightmare for me trying to sell a lease on those properties.

“People would say, ‘What about the environmental ramifications of this oil well behind you?’ And I’d have to say, just like anything, (problems) are always a possibility.”

The drilling poses a possible threat to all of Ruffin’s leases in Delano, Chris Ruffin said: The company has clauses in all protecting the “quiet enjoyment” of its clients.

“Semis backing out a half-dozen times a day with their brakes, their backwards sirens, it’s a very noisy thing,” he said. “This is a huge concern of mine.”

Greg Ferris, the project consultant for Trek and a former Wichita council member, said the project wouldn’t be noisy except during the drilling process, and truck traffic in the area would be “less than if they’d build a convenience store over there.”

“What we’re putting up will look better than the back of his buildings,” Ferris said.

Opponents got only brief shots at the drilling project, since commission members decided early that the project’s details have been debated enough. Drilling foes complained that the project is far too disruptive to Delano as a longshot, a “wildcat experimental well.”

Ferris dismissed the risk concerns.

“Those are entirely on the shoulders of the applicant,” he said.

Others implored the planning commission to move past fossil fuels.

“This is the 21st century,” said Delano business owner Susan Schockett. “We should not be looking at oil options.”

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