The Taft City Council adopted a general plan amendment Tuesday night over the objections of one of the largest landowners in the area.

Occidental of Elk Hills asked that the thousands of acres it owns, leases or has mineral rights to that are included in the planning area for the general plan update be left out.

The Taft City Council adopted a general plan amendment Tuesday night over the objections of one of the largest landowners in the area.
Occidental of Elk Hills asked that the thousands of acres it owns, leases or has mineral rights to that are included in the planning area for the general plan update be left out.
But the council, while assuring Oxy officials that the city had no intent of interfering with oil and gas production, voted 3-0 to approve the amendment.
The vote took place at a joint meeting of the council and Taft Planning Commission held at the Historic Fort.
The area covered by the general plan update is only a fraction of the area originally targeted by the city to add to the  general plan and then target for expansion of the city’s sphere of influence as a possible precursor to eventual annexation.
But it still encompasses  unincorporated oil producing land to the north and northeast of the city as well as agricultural land to the east along Copus Road and South Lake Road.
Oxy’s concern is over the land it is producing from, exploring or has set aside for habitat conservation.
Oxy California land manager Russell Ledbetter spoke at length, reading from a letter submitted at the meeting.
He asked the council to postpone action on the  general plan update until all lands the company has an interest in are taken out of it.
Oxy has invested heavily not only  in land purchases and leases but also a seismic study, and Ledbetter said any step towards urban development of its land in the 36 Hill and Honolulu Hills area is not acceptable to the company.
“Our understanding of the (revised planning area) is that  the area could result in the expansion of the Taft Sphere of  Influence,” Ledbetter wrote.
That could lead to  future annexation, he said, which Oxy feels is not compatible with its exploration and production on its land.
The company owns or leases more than half of the land in the revised planning area (RPA), he said. It leases  mineral rights to 28,000 acres and owns 5,000  acres of surface land within the 58,336-acre RPA.
It also has several thousand acres that has been set aside as permanent wildlife habitat to compensate for  habitat disturbed by its operations
City officials tried to reassure Ledbetter that the city’s proposal would not have any negative impact on Oxy operations.
“SOI  does not necessarily say everything will be urbanized,” Redevelopment Manager Paul Gorte said. “Those (existing) land uses will be respected and maintained  in their current uses. I guarantee it will not inhibit the ability of our oil friends to continue those uses.”
Mayor Dave Noerr, a former production foreman in the oil industry and now owner of a crane company, said Taft more than any city will work with the industry.
“We thoroughly understand your concerns,” he said. “The oil companies built this city. We are very proud of our association with this industry.”
Noerr said any future development near oil producing lands would be limited and both oil lands and developed areas would be insulated from each other.
“We don’t want to put  houses next to an active oilfield,” he said.
Councilman Randy Miller asked Ledbetter about oil producing land it owns in Bakersfield.
Ledbetter said it is “severely constrained” with its production in that city.
“Our ability to exploit our mineral resources in Bakersfield is a problem,” he said.
The RPA adopted Tuesday does not increase the city’s sphere of influence and is and is a small fraction of the area originally targeted by the city when it started the process several years ago.
That plan originally stretched westward to I-5 from  Highway 166 north and north to Highway 58 in the Buttonwillow area.
It was scaled back twice after many land owners and businesses objected to being included in the area.
The city has respected those wishes.
In fact, a representative of J.G. Boswell, owner of large tracts of land that were originally in the planning area, praised the city for keeping its word and not including its land in the revised planning area.
Miller, Noerr and Councilman Paul Linder voted in favor of the update after it was unanimously recommended by the Planning Commission.
Councilmen Cliff Thompson and Craig Noble did not attend the meeting.