SALEM - City council here is considering requiring property owners to secure a permit before signing a lease that includes surface rights.
The Rules and Ordinances Committee of city council discussed the issue Tuesday night, with Chairman Councilman Rick Drummond agreeing to approach the city law director to discuss what can and cannot be enforced before they move forward.
No ordinance has been proposed yet, with the idea just in the discussion phase at this point. Last week, council rejected a proposed ordinance to restrict oil and gas surface drilling to properties in M-2 zoning districts.
Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey reiterated what had already been stated numerous times, that only the state of Ohio holds the power to decide if drilling can take place on a property. She pointed out, though, that the only way the state becomes involved is if there's a lease in place for surface rights and a company wants to exercise those rights and apply for a drilling permit on the leased land.
She suggested an ordinance that says a property owner may not sign a lease for surface rights without a permit from the city. They could be required to appear before the city Planning Commission or the city Board of Zoning Appeals, giving neighbors or anyone else who could be affected a chance to make comment.
"I think if we want to do something about drilling, that's the way to do it," she said.
Councilman Brian Whitehill, who was in the audience, said it can have an effect on economic development. Just having a surface lease signed might affect what land can be used for and whether somebody wants the land for development or not.