June 3, 2024 - TRA Newswire -

Some 50 miles north of Dallas, a scene will be playing out in the 15th District Court of Grayson County between the small town of Gunter and a Class 1 railroad that owns property destined to become a major logistics distribution center. 

The complaint filed by BNSF Railway alleges that the Gunter council did not follow procedure and failed to pass a preliminary plat application for a planned 900-acre rail facility, not once, but twice on different occasions. The first time, BNSF claims the application should have passed when a 30-day clock ran out with no council action. The Gunter council then denied the permit at a following meeting.

The second time BNSF claims in their lawsuit that the zoning application met all city and state requirements when the forms were submitted and that the council should have approved it.

Gunter Mayor Karen Souther, who presides over the city's 2,400 residents, was interviewed by KXII-TV and said she thought that BNSF was trying to intimidate the city "from the start" and that she saw the lawsuit coming.  “I’m not surprised by it at all so I’m not scared of it,” Souther said. “We’re operating by law so we didn’t do anything wrong.”Souther disagrees that the “shot clock” expired. She believes that the council did act in time to deny the application. 

BNSF is asking the court to force the council to approve the plot application so work can commence. The company said it does not comment on pending litigation. 

The issue had been so contentious that all five members of the Gunter city council quit in December 2023. The mass exodus came to head following action in May 2023, when council members unanimously approved, without discussion, a development agreement with the railroad. There was no public notice or input or details of the agreement on the city website. 

The property is alongside the BNSF Madill subdivision that runs from Irving, Dallas and Carrollton through Frisco, Celina and Prosper to Sherman and Denison. The sub continues across the Oklahoma state line and northward to Tulsa. 

Photo credit: Google Street View / BNSF Railway Map