Second Thought: Wednesday, December 27, 2006
An Open Letter to Mistletoe Heights

By Don Young

I live in West Meadowbrook, not Mistletoe Heights, but I am certain that we share many of the same values and concerns for our neighborhoods. No neighborhood is an island. What goes on in one affects the others.

Like many of you, I was born and raised in Fort Worth. My wife and I raised our three children here, we own our home here, and I’ve had my business here since 1973. I have both a financial stake and a great affection for my hometown. I want to see it protected from forces that are reducing the quality of life that makes Fort Worth a wonderful place to live and raise a family.

Among those forces recently was the Sunmount Corp. that wanted to build a cement batch plant near Mistletoe Heights. I was one of your biggest cheerleaders as you rallied together to fight a powerful corporation that is accustomed to getting its way. With no help from the Fort Worth League of Neighborhood Associations, you demonstrated the power of people working together for the greater good of the community and inspired other neighborhoods to follow your example.

Please don’t stop now. Your city needs your leadership again.

After reading a recent report from the Mistletoe Heights Steering Committee on Gas Drilling, I began to wonder if that courageous spirit that was displayed in the fight against Sunmount Corp. is flagging. Why fight a single batch plant and not fight multiple gas wells? After all, gas wells are far more dangerous and intrusive than a batch plant. However, the most serious concern expressed in the committee’s report was: “How much money will I make?” Something is wrong with this picture.

This appears to be a case of the rank-and-file membership being misinformed and/or mis-steered. It’s time to start asking some tough questions of a steering committee made up of two men in oil- and gas-related businesses, two lawyers, and a large landowner.

The most obvious first question should be: Do these men have a conflict of interest? Despite their assertion to the contrary, it would be foolish to assume that they have no bias. The city’s Gas Drilling Task Force had a similar makeup and was exposed as a sham. The result of that injustice is an industry-friendly ordinance. Your committee should include a majority of folks whose income does not depend on oil and gas extraction. This should be corrected immediately and before any further action is taken by the committee.

The next step should be education. The committee’s report makes a half-hearted attempt to explain the basic facts of gas drilling, glossing over many negatives while emphasizing the importance of getting the most money. That’s a mistake other Fort Worth neighborhoods have made, such as Chapel Creek. It would benefit you to get more information from a variety of untainted sources, including Chapel Creek and news sources such as Fort Worth Weekly and the Denton Record-Chronicle that have published a number of courageous reports on gas drilling. There are also dozens of online sources, such as the and my own Education is crucial. Don’t depend on an inherently biased committee for your information. And remember that just a year ago, a massive gas well explosion leveled and burned one square mile in Palo Pinto County.

Rather than just adding up the dollars, ask yourselves these questions: How much money is it worth to allow several new, dirty, dangerous, heavy-industrial operations into your neighborhood? The average homeowner will not get rich. That $500 bonus will be gone in a month. What about monthly royalties? According to Mistletoe Heights president Jim Bradbury, they only amount to “lunch money.” Taxes must be paid on both. When and if royalty payments increase, so will your electricity and gas bills. Will living near a gas well reduce your property values and marketability? Realtors can’t say for sure, but there are documented cases of a 50 percent decrease in value.

What about your homeowners’ insurance — will it increase? Some say yes. Will banks loan money to finance new homes in the neighborhood? Some have said no. New pipelines and feeder lines must be added, sometimes on property acquired through eminent domain. How many trees will have to be removed? Does quality of life have a price tag? What are you left with when the wells stop producing?

That’s the real question. Many people with direct experience would say that it’s a net loss, and they now regret that they didn’t work to keep drilling out of their neighborhoods.

These and other questions need to be addressed by all who live in Mistletoe Heights and surrounding areas. Will residents of these grand old neighborhoods in the heart of Fort Worth relinquish control of their homes and property to an industry with a record of deception, arrogance, and broken promises?

All of Fort Worth is watching to see what happens.

Don Young is a local environmentalist, glass artist, and founder of FWCanDo.

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