When Worlds Collide


First an update on the lab tests I mentioned a day or two ago. The doc said, “Well, on paper, you’re in excellent health!” I got copies of all the lab results and it looks like he’s right.

I spent Monday evening at a City Commission meeting in Gardner, Kansas. Gardner is on the growing edge of Johnson County, the burgeoning Kansas City suburbia. Gardner used to be a rural small town with farms, many of which have oil wells. Some of my clients have leases around there. Drove by a couple on the way over. But now, thanks to suburban growth, some of those farms are worth twenty grand an acre to developers, unless they’re tied up with oil leases. That was the issue at the commission meeting. An oil operator with a very marginal operation won’t give up the oil lease for a reasonable price, which means the fellow who owns the land can’t sell it. The oil operator is basically holding the ground hostage in order to get a big chunk of the developer’s money, instead of what his little operation is actually worth. So, the landowner got the city of Gardner to annex it and then rezone it from agricultural to residential so the oil operator can’t drill any more wells. The operator resented this, and sued the city and the landowner. The city case went to court, and the judge sent it back to the city commission for reconsideration, which voted unanimously again to annex and rezone to residential use. So, now it’ll go back to court, and whoever loses will probably appeal to the Court of Appeals.

I’m involved because my client owns property next door with an oil lease with the same operator, and has a standing offer from another developer for his property if we can get rid of the oil lease. The twist is that a couple of years ago I represented the company in St. Louis that owned these oil leases at the time. They were about to lose them for lack of operations. I got that straightened out, and that client actually sold the leases to another client. And then the second client sold the leases to the operator that’s now suing the landowners and the city. So, I was sitting there like the cat that ate the canary, because I knew all the stuff that the oil operator’s attorney wasn’t telling the commission, and I knew all the questions the commission should’ve asked but didn’t because they don’t know anything about oil leases. But, I had to keep my mouth shut. I was just there to reconnoiter and size up the forces. Another twist is that in another part of Johnson County I’m on the other side. I represent an operator who was willing to give up his lease for a fair price, but the landowner thinks a fair price is zero, so the landowner’s threatening to sue my client and try to void the lease in court. And then I have the same situation here in Douglas County, where the landowner has already filed suit against my oil operator client instead of offering a fair price for the oil lease.

Big money, politics, and so-called progress fighting for control over patches of Kansas dirt. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Me? I’m just the hired gun. :shootem:

Shane! Come back, Shane!

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