Around 5 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, April 5, 32nd District Court Judge Glen Harrison denied the request for a temporary injunction of residents from Oak Creek Reservoir and Lake Sweetwater to stop the City of Sweetwater's implementation of the new lease agreement.
A packed courtroom of residents — with even some hallway overflow — attended the nearly three-and-a-half hour hearing held at the Nolan County Courthouse. Leading the cause was Clarence Brockett, Jr., an attorney from Midland who also is a recent lake property owner.
Concerns prompting the hearing stemmed from the belief that a breach of contract had taken place between the city and the residents, along with the fact that the new lease favors the city. Lake residents believed that as long as the annual rent fee was paid on time and the property was kept clean, the old lease agreement would be renewed annually. However, the new lease leads residents to believe that the city can take the property from them at any time as long as a 90 day notice is given.
The City of Sweetwater, however, argued that they were acting within the contract and the issue with the lease resulted from poor contract interpretation by the lessees. The city claimed that the reason for adopting the new lease contract was to clarify issues that had been previously raised as well as to include changes in the law. In order to bring uniformity and end ambiguity in the contract — which the city believed to create uncertainty, the new lease was drafted and approved by the Sweetwater City Commission in early 2009.
Three witnesses took the stand at the hearing, including Brockett, Sweetwater City Manager Eddie Brown and lake resident Leon Brooks.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Brockett testified that he had not signed the new lease agreement due to the concerns of the 90-day clause. After being informed of the new lease, Brockett corresponded with the city's legal team from November 2010 through March of this year, which eventually led to the injunction.
Brown took the stand, stating that no such perception of the old lease was ever given to lessees. He did note, however, that some residents have failed in compliance of keeping the property clean, citing old batteries and golf cart carcasses in various properties. The new lease agreement was made, according to Brown, because the old lease was "antiquated", due in part that they were previously called campsite agreements. Out of the 514 entire leases, 460 have already signed the new lease.
Brooks, the last person to testify, has been at his lakeside property since 1988 in Blackwell. He also believed that as long as he kept his property clean and made the annual payment on time, he would have his lease renewed. The city, however, argued that the lessees simply did not like the new lease.
Because of Judge Harrison's ruling, Brockett and the other residents may now be filing a lawsuit.