Drilling company: Not the bad guy in Southfield oil church clash

Image 1 of 3

The fight over a Southfield church's decision to drill for oil has gone from city hall to county court.

There will be no oil drills in Southfield at least for now.

"We the people of Southfield are still determined as ever to see that it never happens in Southfield," said resident Larry Quarles.

This comes just days after the company Jordan Development got state approval to begin exploring for oil at the Word of Faith Church in Southfield. But city attorneys saw a problem.

"This is residential district," said Susan Ward-Witkowski, Southfield attorney. "Drilling is not a permitted use in that district."

The attorney for the church and the oil company agreed, they plan to challenge to zoning ordinance over the summer. But they make the argument that they shouldn’t be viewed as the bag guys in all of this.

"My clients have put in money to the trust fund which in the past three years has given over $380,000 to the city of Southfield," said Mike Cox, attorney for Word of Faith and Jordan Development. "I get people say 'not in my backyard' but the people who say that don't know the reality of oil drilling."

Cox said the drills placed on the land are not the imposing beasts seen in the movies, rather a 15 by 15 machine tucked in the woods.

"In the middle of 110 acres in dense woods is where we're drilling this," Cox said. "Both my clients have been very sensitive of the neighborhood."

But others living in the city are worried if the company is successful in changing the ordinance, a new precedent will be set.

"What if Word of Faith wants to put in a thermonuclear reactor next week," Quarles said. "The what-ifs go on and on."

The court ordered nothing will happen until this matter is heard in court. The next scheduled date is September 1.