For the second time this year, the state has closed Fairfield Lake State Park after it was unable to negotiate the purchase of the property from a developer.
After several attempts to save the 1,820-acre park, Texas Parks and Wildlife announced over the weekend that Shawn Todd, founder and CEO of Dallas-based Todd Interests, declined the state’s $25 million offer to give up the company’s contract for the 5,000-acre property that includes the park, located about 100 miles south of Dallas in Freestone County.
The park was closed to the public Sunday night. The agency says it will now explore using eminent domain and condemnation to seize the land, which the state had leased for decades before it was sold to Todd Interests earlier this year.
“Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners continue to pursue options for saving Fairfield Lake State Park, including through condemnation,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chair Arch “Beaver” Aplin III said in a press release. “But in the meantime, department staff must focus on decommissioning the property before our lease ends June 13.”
The agency’s commissioners have scheduled a June 10 meeting to discuss acquiring the park through condemnation.
Parks and Wildlife said its commissioners took “persistent and extraordinary steps” to negotiate with Todd Interests to buy the park.
Shawn Todd and his sons Patrick and Philip Todd, who own and manage Todd Interests, expressed “astonishment” and “surprise” that state officials are considering condemnation in a letter they sent to TPWD on Tuesday.
The state had numerous opportunities to acquire the property that includes the park, the letter says. “The State of Texas, however, has spent the last eight months working to derail our transaction and diminish our transactional rights,” it says.
The letter said the company has begun executing its development plan and investing millions of dollars in related contracts. Construction equipment arrived at the site Monday, the letter added. Shawn Todd has said the company plans to build a private golf course and luxury gated community on the property.
TPWD has begun to remove equipment and relocate staff members, according to an agency press release.
“We’re back to square one,” said Luke Metzger, the executive director of Environment Texas, a statewide environmental group that has advocated for saving the park. “It’s unfortunate [TPWD] has to go this route but they’re in a strong position to exercise their rights to save the park.”
See here for the previous update. I was sent a copy of the letter from Todd Interests, which you can see here. They are understandably upset by all that has happened, and were pretty damn blunt in their response. That includes this paragraph, which I plan to frame and hang on my wall:
Additionally, the esteemed Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office sent a letter directing us to preserve evidence as if we had been involved in a crime. We assume this was purely an effort of intimidation as it contains nothing of legal substance – simply theatrics for the media in an effort to interfere with our lawful contract. The letter is dated May 25th, the same date that articles of impeachment were filed against the Attorney General.
Now that is the level of esteem in which Ken Paxton should be held. Kudos to whoever wrote that.
You can feel however you want about this project. I’d rather Fairfield remain a state park, and as noted before I say that as someone who is not a state park person. But it’s abundantly clear that the state of Texas screwed the pooch on this. They could have bought this land any time, but because it was cheap and convenient to continue with the lease arrangement, the Lege allowed it to continue, and now here we are. Todd Interests is quite right to bemoan the hypocrisy of the flexible Republican stance on eminent domain, even if the public good of exercising it is obvious. We had plenty of opportunities to avoid this situation, that’s all I’m saying. The Chron and the Current have more.