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Water tower conflicts continue

Profile image for By John D. Harden / Staff Writer
By John D. Harden / Staff Writer

BARTONVILLE — On a dirt road a few yards west of the Bartonville Town Center along FM407, an unfinished water tower peeks slightly over the top of the trees. For nearly four years, the water tower’s base has sat incomplete. 

In August, officials from the Cross Timbers Water Supply Corp. were hoping to resolve some issues regarding legal conflicts with the town of Bartonville that’s preventing the tower from being completed. 

The town and the water corporation entered a mediation process, but talks fell apart, and now the legal battles will continue. Pat McDonald, Bartonville Water Supply Corp. president, said the talks were a complete failure. 

“No side agreed to the offers of the other side,” he said. 

He said each side refused to budge on its stance. McDonald would not comment on what the town of Bartonville offered, but he said that the water supply corporation seeks to complete the tower, which the town opposes.

Bartonville town officials said there haven’t been any updates to the lawsuit and they haven’t given any indication that they would lift the injunction.

Officials and local residents recently stated that they would like the water tower torn down. 

McDonald said the water corporation is pursuing construction of the tower because there’s a need for it and he added that it will ensure that there’s adequate water for the future. 

In a recent town meeting, Mayor Ron Robertson said Bartonville was sued and the town will defend its stance on the issue until the litigation is resolved.

Conflicts began 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 because the site was not zoned for construction, and the corporation sued the town. That suit was dismissed, according to court records.

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.

The town 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.

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

“The judge didn’t declare a winner or a loser,” McDonald said. “They just didn’t answer the questions we had because they didn’t want to rule outside the jurisdiction of the case.” 

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

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

There’s no time line for when the case will go back to court, but officials on both sides say they’re hoping for a resolution soon, officials said. 

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