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Judge to decide fate of water tower

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The Town of Bartonville has a water problem that has nothing to do with the existing drought conditions.

On June 1, the Bartonville Water Supply Corporation (BWSC) filed a lawsuit against the Town of Bartonville.

The filing followed the Town Council’s denial of BWSC’s second request for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to build an elevated water storage tower on its property.

The proposed 155-foot tall water storage tank will sit on 4.7 acres within BWSC’s property located at the end of I.T. Neely Rd., behind the former Stargate Sport Horses facility west of Lantana. It will be visible from FM 407, Bartonville Town Center and to residents on the west side of Lantana.

“The case was filed and we discussed it in executive session with the town attorney at the June council meeting, but only as pending litigation,” said Town of Bartonville Mayor Ron Robertson. “There was no discussion on specifics.”

The case itself, however, is based entirely on specifics.

Rather than continuing its attempts to conform to Bartonville’s ordinance codes surrounding its property, BWSC is requesting a legal determination exempting the public utility from oversight by the Town Council.

To better understand this, think in terms of “diplomatic immunity,” only in geographic terms. A utility may be located within a municipality’s boundaries, but its property is like a separate entity. The most famous example of eminent domain is Vatican City inside Rome, Italy.

The initial CUP application was submitted back in August 2010, was recommended for approval by the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission, but denied by the Town Council in its November meeting.

The second application was filed on Feb. 11, 2011, was recommended for approval in the March 2nd Planning and Zoning meeting, but was denied at the April 19th Town Council meeting.

The same players with the same arguments were involved in both applications.

At the Sept. 1, 2010 Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing, Kerry Maroney, director and president of Biggs & Mathews, a consulting engineers and hydrogeologists firm, spoke as a representative of BWSC.

He explained that the site was strategically evaluated for its remote location and vicinity to the Upper Trinity Regional Water District (UTRWD), which has a large-diameter water line that crosses the property.

“BWSC actually purchased this property approximately 10 years ago and received a Specific Use Permit from the Town of Bartonville in 2001 to construct a well and ground storage and pump station facility,” said Jim Leggieri, general manager of BWSC.

“It has an elevation very similar to that of our existing elevated tank located in the town of Double Oak.  Elevation is a very important factor when selecting a location for such a facility. Eventually, elevated tanks need certain specific maintenance and having two tanks will allow one to be taken down for maintenance while operating from the other.”

Town Attorney Robert Hager said that the commissioner’s options were limited. BWSC’s powers of eminent domain limit the town’s authority to oppose the proposed tank. He said that if BWSC can show that the tank is needed and required to maintain the system, then the town can only regulate the aesthetics.

Bartonville residents opposed to the water tower questioned the need for an elevated storage tank instead of lower and larger ground tanks such as in Southlake, the potential for reduced property values in the area around the tank and the visual impact on the rural atmosphere of Bartonville.

Leading the resident protest from the first public hearing were the Armeys.

Susan Armey said she and her husband built their house to enjoy a pastoral view, not look at a water tower.

Dick Armey repeatedly reflected back on his decision to purchase his property and being told by the BWSC that storage tanks would be no larger than other storage tanks in the area. Armey said he considers the tank an unnecessary eyesore and an aggravation that will reduce property values. He also questioned BWSC’s sense of urgency to meet anticipated connections adding that if the connections are needed for growth in Flower Mound, then the tower should be built there.

Leggieri said the elevated storage tank was a necessity in order to provide water for the entire system [not only those in Bartonville]. He added that the Armey’s are Argyle Water Supply Corporation (AWSC) customers and that their view was already obstructed by the 120’ electrical lines.

Maroney said BWSC’s Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN) covers over 10,000 acres. The State of Texas requires elevated storage tanks for all systems that have 2,500 connections, or the potential to have 2,500 connections. At the time of the November Town Council meeting, BWSC had 2,118 customers (of a maximum 5,400 connections), only 35-percent of which are Bartonville residents. Also, according to AWWA’s (American Water Works Association) recommended standards of 200 gallons of elevated water reserve per customer, BWSC is lacking the needed capacity for fire protection.

Mayor Ron Robertson said that BWSC was in the water business, not in the fire suppression business, at least that was what the town was told when they had to pay for additional hydrants in the Stonewood Addition.

The Town Council denied the request on November 16, 2010.

Round two of the CUP application fight began at the March 2 Planning and Zoning meeting.

Maroney presented a review of the application from BWSC. A surface water supply corporation is required to have a surface pump capacity of a minimum of 2.0 gallons per minute per connection in elevated storage when the system reaches 2,500 connections. The total existing and committed BWSC connections number 2,489 units.

Bartonville residents speaking against the elevated storage tank included the Armeys, Rex Tillerson, and Bruce Monroe who pointed to BWSC presentations showing only ground storage facilities on the site. Speaking on potential property value loss from an elevated tank were Norma Harrington and Aurora Pucciarello, while Mike Pucciarello and Carter Ghrist said that the tower should be placed where the development and population growth is expected.

The CUP was recommended for town approval by the commissioners.

During the Town Council meeting in March, Maroney said that BWSC could not use pressurized tanks as back up capacity, because if the system became over pressurized by the pumps, the line could blow out.

He said that even though they had an emergency interconnect agreement with Lantana, it could not be used for a three to four month time period while the Double Oak tower was down for maintenance.

Town Engineer Gary Vickery said that, from a technical point of view, the elevated tank was good sound water system planning and management. With respect to the requested location, he said that it was technically and cost effectively the most advantageous location.

The council voted to continue the matter to its April meeting.

Following a repetition of concerns and facts presented at previous meetings, the Town Council denied BWSC’s CUP request for an elevated water storage tank and related facilities as detailed in Ordinance 505-10.

The fight between BWSC and the Town of Bartonville over the elevated water tower storage tank will not be resolved in the code of ordinances ring. Instead, it will be a technical decision from Denton County’s 211th Judicial District Court Judge L. Dee Shipman.

 

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