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Arlington oil well changes to be proposed at preservation meeting

NATCHEZ — The Arlington oil well developer will appear before the Natchez Preservation Commission at its meeting today seeking approval for an oil operation the city planner says has a lesser impact on the historic property than the previously denied oil operation.

Mike Biglane of RMB Exploration is seeking a certificate of appropriateness for an oil well on 6.1 acres of Arlington property, which is approximately 9 acres fewer than the originally proposed 15 acres.

“It will definitely have less of an impact on Arlington, it will be on a small area over on the other side of where the Arlington house is,” she said.

The proposed drilling location will establish a 70- to 100-foot wooded buffer area from the houses on St. Charles Avenue that will be adjacent to the operation, City Planner Frankie Legaux said.

Legaux added that instead of using the Arlington driveway as previously proposed to drive oil trucks in, the developer will construct a 30-foot driveway off John A. Quitman Boulevard to access the site.

Heavy equipment will also be trucked to the site using the driveway, which Legaux said would mean temporarily shutting down one lane of traffic on John A. Quitman Boulevard.

If the preliminary drilling is successful and the developer sets up a well, Legaux said the oil will be piped underground across John A. Quitman Boulevard and Main Street to a parcel of land where the oil tank farm will be housed. That land will be accessed from the end of Ouachita Street.

If the oil operation is optimal for the developer, Legaux said three trucks a week would access the site.

RMB Exploration conducted preliminary oil exploration on Arlington property in late 2011 and early January without completing the city’s approval process for the operation.

Biglane appeared before the preservation commission last January for approval, which wasn’t granted at the time. Biglane never returned to the commission after the exploration resulted in a dry hole.

Biglane returned to the preservation commission in May with an amended application for a second proposed oil operation.

The oil well was denied by the Natchez preservation and planning commissions. The Natchez Board of Aldermen denied Biglane’s appeal to the preservation commission’s decision.

Biglane filed an application with the Mississippi State Oil and Gas Board last summer for authority to drill the well previously denied by the city.

The oil and gas board has since granted the city two continuances to allow time for all interested parties to come to a compromise on the oil operation.

If the currently proposed oil operation is approved, Mayor Butch Brown said the oil and gas board will not have to make a decision on Biglane’s appeal for the previously denied oil operation.

“They’ll be nothing to appeal,” he said.

City Attorney Hyde Carby said oil and gas board will still have to issue a permit for the operation, but he said the goal is to work out an amicable agreement regarding the oil well.

“The idea is to avoid a fight if we can,” he said.

Brown said he believed the board would prefer the matter be worked out between the city and the developer.

Arlington was named the second most endangered historic property in Mississippi by the Mississippi Heritage Trust in 2009.

The preservation commission will meet at 5:15 p.m. in the Natchez City Council Chambers.