Dispute over water tower plays on

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Bartonville, utility at odds in court over construction

BARTONVILLE — Conflicts continue between Bartonville and the Cross Timbers Water Supply Corp. over the construction of a water tower, despite the 4th Court of Appeals making a ruling in favor of the town and halting construction for now.

Next month the town and the corporation will enter mediation to determine if they can reach an agreement. The conflict involves a half-completed water tower near the end of Neely Road.

The first conflict arose in 2011 when the water supply corporation, known as Bartonville Water Supply Corp. at the time, decided to construct the $1.2 million water tower.

The corporation had begun building the tower, but the town demanded construction stop because the corporation had failed to obtain the proper permits, according to court records.

The town later denied the corporation’s request for a construction permit, and the corporation sued the town. That suit was dismissed, according to court records.

Bartonville officials say the permit was denied because the planned site of the tower was not zoned to allow for construction, court records show.

In 2012, the corporation requested a rehearing of the suit, and a judge ruled that the town’s zoning ordinance and building permit requirements did not apply to the water supply corporation. The judge ruled that a construction permit should be issued to the corporation for the water tower.

Bartonville quickly appealed that decision, and the appeals court overturned the lower court’s decision, ruling that the judge exceeded the subject of the case, court records show.

The appeals judge ruled that the town has the authority to enforce its ordinances over the water utility’s property and its construction decisions, court records show.

However, the court did not rule on whether a permit for construction should be granted, leaving the door open for mediation.

Pat McDonald, the water supply corporation’s president, said he doesn’t know what it would take to reach an agreement, but he hopes the conflicts can be resolved so the tower can be completed.

“We’re doing this because there’s a need for it,” he said. “We serve the people and we make sure there’s adequate water.”

Mayor Ron Robertson said Bartonville was sued and the town will defend its stance on the issue until the ligation is resolved.

In late July, the town was added as a party to a lawsuit between residents of at least 10 Bartonville households and the water supply corporation.

A judge ruled that the town was a necessary party to the case, but the town now seeks dismissal from that suit, which was first filed in December.

In their suit in the 393rd District Court, property owners cited that the construction of the tower in their community is a nuisance, and they called for construction to halt indefinitely.

They claim in their suit that a water tower at the planned site would lower their property values, but the corporation denies that the tower would have any effect.

A ruling on that case has been postponed, pending the final ruling on the case between the town and the water supply corporation.

A few residents have opposed the construction of the tower, but there are some who have expressed interest in having the tower completed.

Letters to the Town Council from Del Knowler, a spokesman for Citizens United for a Rural Environment, encourage the town to consider the condition of Bartonville’s current water tower.

Knowler, who is also on the town’s board of adjustment, said Bartonville’s current tower does not have sufficient capacity for emergencies during peak periods.

A wrong decision in this lawsuit could negatively affect residents, he said. And he added that his organization’s objective is to inform and not take sides.

McDonald said he hopes that next month both parties can resolve their differences and move on from the conflicts.

“The question that the court has yet to answer was whether or not the town had the right to deny a permit for construction,” McDonald said. “That’s the core question we need answered. [Then we] can put all of this behind us.”

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.


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