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Carrollton enters dispute over Denton-Tarrant county line

By: Allen Houston 08/07/2003

The Carrollton City Council has sided with Denton County in a boundary dispute with Tarrant County that could affect city council districts.

Before, the July 22 session to interview prospective Planning and Zoning Commission members, the council passed a resolution to file an amicus curiae brief in Denton County v. Tarrant County, which is before the Texas Supreme Court.
Tarrant County claims that its boundary with Denton County must be parallel to that of the Denton-Dallas county line. The Denton-Tarrant line is now somewhat south of the Denton-Dallas line.

"Basically, back in 1987, there was confusion about where the boundary line was between Denton and Dallas counties," Carrollton City Manager Leonard Martin said.. "The city manager at the time asked the counties to resolve the questionable county lines because the council relies upon those boundary lines to draw their districts."

The boundary between the counties acted as a dividing line between council districts.

According to city documents, "People who wanted to run for council seats who lived near the boundary could not clearly identify which district they lived in. Apparently, some threatened to sue the city as a result of the confusion." Mike Eastland, then city manager, asked Dallas and Denton counties to sit down and resolve the boundary dispute, so the city would not face litigation.

"The boundary would make it cleaner for Carrollton," said Martin. "Under state law, surrounding counties have to have the approval of adjacent counties to get approval so that they can change their boundaries."

Denton County Commissioner Sandy Jacobs and Dallas County Commissioner Jim Jackson worked together to propose the new county boundaries.

Then, during the mid-1990s, Tarrant County entered into the situation and asked that the new boundary line be extended west across southern Denton County to the Wise County border.

"The portion of Denton County that is in dispute contains lots of very high-value industrial properties, which Tarrant Count would like to tax," said Martin. Much of the Alliance Airport area in north Fort Worth rests in the disputed territory.

According to the same city document, when Denton County received the request from Tarrant County, it refused because the redrawing of the boundary involved only Dallas County.

After that, Tarrant sued Denton and a Tarrant County district judge rule in favor of Tarrant County.

Denton County has appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. It has asked cities within the county to join the petition for re-hearing by passing resolutions.

During the July 22 meeting, the city council agreed to pass the resolution. It does not cost the city any money and does not require legal action beyond passing the resolution.

"If Denton County does not get the rehearing or loses their appeal, we can anticipate that Denton County will then begin work to realign the boundary between Dallas and Denton Counties. This would impact council districts substantially. If that happens and we do not change our charter, which uses county boundaries for district boundaries, we can expect to be involved in litigation in the future because of the disproportionate size that would result between council districts," Martin wrote in a memo to city council.