After years of watching restaurants come to nearby Southlake and Roanoke, Trophy Club finally nailed two new high-profile eateries for its Texas 114 highway frontage.
The announcement of Bread Winners and Meat U Anywhere BBQ earlier this summer represented a big win for the affluent bedroom community that sits on the Tarrant and Denton County line.
There’s just one problem: The Municipal Utility District says the town’s sewer treatment facility is at capacity and can’t accommodate any new connections, which is frustrating Trophy Club officials, developers and residents.
It’s kind of silly and ridiculous. We get to the 11th hour and MUD decides to shut it down.
Landowner Russell Holley
The MUD’s decision came as a “complete shock” to Andy Sedino, owner of Meat U Anywhere BBQ, which opened its first location in Grapevine in 2014.
But MUD officials say they’re equally frustrated that the solution to the problem — expanding the town’s wastewater treatment facility — has been bogged down in town politics for months.
The MUD No. 1 wastewater treatment facility is mostly hidden by trees on Trophy Club’s northeast side. It uses a mix of old and new technology, some from the 1970s, to treat sewer water from Trophy Club and portions of Westlake.
In May, the MUD started construction to expand and update the treatment facility, but town officials halted the work immediately. Trophy Club officials wanted the MUD to file a replat of the property before commencing construction.
The MUD responded by halting new connections to the city, saying they could overload the system, especially in winter. Exceeding capacity could result in fines by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
“They did not take this decision lightly. They are residents of Trophy Club, too. They realized what an impact this would be,” said Jennifer McKnight, general manager for MUD No. 1, referring to actions taken by the MUD board in August. “But we can’t subject the residents to delay damages and to fines from the TCEQ.”
At its heart, this fight pits the town against the MUD, which are separate entities.
“Our hope is that the MUD does the right thing by providing the water and wastewater service commitments for our community and region,” Town Manager Stephen Seidel said.
Town Councilman Greg Lamont has been vocal about the issue in emails to Trophy Club residents.
I don’t want to put our customers in a position where they are discharging pollution.
Jennifer McKnight, general manager for MUD No. 1
“The MUD, in my opinion, is using their ability to withhold permits to gain leverage with the town and force the town to grant waivers and not follow their development rules and procedures,” Lamont said.
Jim Moss, longtime MUD president, said he’s hopeful the council will approve everything for the wastewater treatment facility at its Sept. 22 meeting.
“As soon as they approve that, we’ll approve the restaurants,” Moss said. “I believe it’s going to happen by the end of the month. We just have to take our lumps to keep from giving up these restaurants. The fact that we’re under construction should go a long way.”
The wastewater treatment plant uses microscopic bugs to break down organic matter, a process that slows down in the winter, officials said. The improvements would add a third membrane filtering process that would increase efficiency and capacity to treat sewer water.
“I really dread what could happen this winter with our flow so high,” Moss said. “We’ve been held up. We really should be four or five months down the road now. We haven’t been able to get the town to give us the OK.”
For the MUD, it’s a public health and safety matter.
“I don’t want to put our customers in a position where they are discharging pollution,” McKnight said. “That’s not good for the public. It’s an environmental issue. We can’t put those higher levels into the lakes. That’s the concern. From an employee that works in Trophy Club, I would love to be able to go have lunch at a new restaurant.”
The MUD started work on the treatment plan in May, but Trophy Club officials halted the work.
Trophy Club officials said that they have not seen any official TCEQ documentation that the MUD is out of capacity.
Both restaurant sites are on platted lots with installed infrastructure approved by the MUD and the town dating back more than a decade. Owners of both sites have paid taxes to the MUD.
The town requested a replat because it says the wastewater treatment plant wasn’t up to code. That’s important because sewer treatment is a heavy industrial use that’s located near residential homes and Army Corps of Engineers environmentally sensitive areas, town spokeswoman April Reiling said.
No plans were submitted to the town for review until Trophy Club stopped work on the site.
But the MUD counters that the treatment center has been updated three times, most recently in 2001. None of those updates required a replat.
‘Silly and ridiculous’
Caught in the middle of the fight is Russell Holley, whose family has owned the land where the Meat-U-Anywhere is planned. He’s already had 10 other deals fall through for various reasons. He’s hoping to sell the land to take care of his widowed mother, who lives in a retirement home. The deal to sell the land to Sedino is expected to close in mid-October.
“It’s kind of silly and ridiculous,” said Holley. “We get to the 11th hour and MUD decides to shut it down.”
Sedino said Trophy Club is perfect for the second Meat U Anywhere location because his children attend Westlake Academy across the highway and he will be coaching his son’s 13U Select baseball team that’s based in Trophy Club.
He said he doesn’t want to be a “political football” in this matter, either.
“You can imagine a $2.5 million to $3 million completed development with a water hose and an outhouse; we are BBQ, but we ain’t that rustic,” Sedino joked.