Kyle City Council approves on first reading new building regulations and safety procedures for pipeline-adjacent development

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An ordinance that will affect development near oil and gas pipelines in Kyle was approved on first reading by the City Council May 14 at a special meeting.

Citing safety concerns and a desire to find “the best way to balance the interests of property owners, developers, and transmission pipeline operators,” the additional regulations prohibit development of certain types of buildings within a certain proximity to pipelines and require pipeline companies to take additional steps as they move through the construction process.

The new rules are in response to plans for the Permian Highway Pipeline, a natural gas conduit that the company Kinder Morgan is routing between oil fields in West Texas and the Gulf Coast, nearly bisecting Hays County and the city of Kyle on its way; Kyle officials have been publicly opposing the project for months.

All three council members present when the item was raised on May 14—Tracy Scheel, Daphne Tenorio and Alex Villalobos—as well as Mayor Travis Mitchell, voted in favor of the ordinance.

No public comment was made at the beginning of the short meeting—which lasted less than 10 minutes—nor was there any discussion among council members, but Assistant City Attorney Barbara Boulware-Wells did approach the podium before the vote to say some changes had been made to the ordinance in response to comments received from a representative of one of the landowners.

“The comments that were given to me were not a problem—they were very easily incorporated,” Boulware-Wells said.

She did not specify what the changes were and Mitchell asked only if they were acceptable to the Nance family, referring to Scott and Lana Nance, who were in attendance at the meeting.

The Nances own a controlling interest in several thousand acres of land, part of which falls in the path of the Permian Highway Pipeline and are part of a group of landowners who are—along with the city of Kyle and Hays County—suing the Texas Railroad Commission for failing to better regulate oil and gas pipelines.

In addition to placing noise limits on construction and requiring pipeline companies to submit detailed plans to the city, the ordinance institutes a number of rules for developers.

As part of an effort to encourage “early communication between the interested parties” and “assist with prudent land use permitting decisions,” one section of the new building rules establishes a “consultation zone” within 660 feet of a pipeline. It requires developers working within those limits to submit a specific application and complete a checklist designed by the city that would provide “information concerning any impact the activity will have upon the integrity of the transmission pipeline(s).”

The ordinance also addresses safety concerns at length, including a prohibition on new buildings with a “use requiring evacuation assistance”—such as schools, nursing homes, hospitals, medical offices or detention facilities—from being built within 500 feet of a pipeline unless the council makes an exception.

See the ordinance in full here.

Correction 5/21: This post and headline have been updated to reflect that the ordinance was approved on first reading, but will not go into effect unless it is approved on second reading at a future council meeting.

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Katharine Jose has written about politics, infrastructure, environment, development, natural disasters and other subjects for The New York Observer, Capital New York, and The New York Times, among other publications. She was an editor for several publications in New York City before she moved to Texas, and has a master's degree in urban planning from the University of Texas-Austin.
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