Off to court next, I guess.
The developer who purchased the site of a now-former state park has rejected the state’s final offer to purchase the property.
Dallas-based Todd Interests became the owner of the Fairfield Lake State Park property, about 70 miles east of Waco, at the start of June. The previous owner, Vistra Energy, sold the 5,000-acre property, including the park, five years after closing its power plant by the lake.
Negotiations for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to purchase the property failed. TPWD had leased the land for the park from Vistra for 50 years. The new owner announced intentions to cancel the lease and turn the property into a private community with multi-million dollar homes and a golf course.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission voted June 10 to acquire the property from Todd Interests through eminent domain. As part of those proceedings, TPWD submitted an offer to the developer.
In a statement Tuesday, Shawn Todd, CEO of Todd Interests, announced he has rejected that offer, saying it was below what his company had initially paid for the property.
“Not only was the offer below what we paid for and have already put into the property, and hundreds of millions below fair market value, it was accompanied by an $85 million appraisal that we are told will be the offered amount in condemnation proceedings,” Todd said.
While Todd has not revealed the exact amount he purchased the property for, he previously told KXAN it was “just north” of $100 million. Vistra had initially listed the site for more than $110 million.
The developer said the property is worth a lot more than what he paid for, though. In June, he told KXAN his bank had appraised the value of the property’s water rights alone at $238 million.
In his statement, Todd said TPWD has hired an outside law firm to represent it in eminent domain proceedings. The law firm, Todd said, has made allegations that fish in the lake are potentially contaminated with toxic materials from the former coal-fired power plant, and that historical sites were recently discovered on the property.
“Sadly, these statements and actions are consistent and a part of the continued false narrative created by TPWD and its leadership designed to artificially drive down the value of our property,” Todd said.
In a statement provided to KXAN, TPWD said it is using “due diligence” in an attempt to purchase the property, including inspections, environmental assessments and an appraisal report.
“TPWD filed an application for a temporary injunction to gain access to the property to determine whether there are environmental concerns,” Cory Chandler, deputy communications director for TPWD, told KXAN.
Chandler said TPWD and its legal counsel “have not alleged there is any contamination in Fairfield Lake State Park,” other than instances already documented by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The temporary injunction, filed Aug. 7 in Freestone County, asks for a temporary restraining order to allow state crews onto the property for inspections, surveys and tests.
See here for the previous entry. I will note that Freestone County, where the park is located, opposes the use of eminent domain to retain the park for the state. I don’t know how much weight that carries, but there it is. I have the full statement from Todd Interests beneath the fold. I’ll be interested to see what the courts make of this.
TODD INTERESTS REJECTED THE FINAL OFFER SUBMITTED BY TPWD TO PURCHASE FORMER FAIRFIELD STATE PARK, ADDITIONAL LAND AND SEPARATE WATER RIGHTS
Not only was the offer below what we paid for and have already put into the property and hundreds of millions below fair market value, it was accompanied by an $85MM appraisal that we are told will be the offered amount in condemnation proceedings. Chairman Aplin, on behalf of TPWD, has hired an outside law firm (a first ever in TPWD condemnation history) to represent TPWD in these initial proceedings. This law firm is alleging that the fish in Fairfield State Park are potentially contaminated with toxic materials produced from the former coal fired power plant. Additionally, they are also alleging apparently recently discovered historical sites on the property. Sadly, these statements and actions are consistent and a part of the continued false narrative created by TPWD and its leadership designed to artificially drive down the value of our property.
These false statements are consistent with the ones that the Freestone County Commissioners have demanded TPWD to publicly retract. These same Commissioners have asked TPWD to stop this historic eminent domain action. They asked them to stop it now.
TPWD doesn’t have the money to purchase our on-going real estate development and compensate us for damages, let alone pay us fair market value for our water rights. Chairman Aplin has been aware for months of the $238MM appraised value of the water rights alone.
The only money TPWD has to purchase property for fiscal years 2024 and 2025 is a total of $125MM , and that is solely to purchase from willing sellers, for which we are not.
Chairman Aplin in his Dallas Morning News editorial stated that 10,000,000 people visited Texas Parks last year and that 80,000 of those people visited former Fairfield Lake State Park.
If the Chairman’s statement is true, less than 1% of all State Park attendees visited Fairfield State Park. Why would TPWD spend 100% of TPWD’s allocated park acquisition money for 2024 and 2025 and additionally blindly obligate the Texas tax payers for hundreds of millions more in compensation, for former leased property that had less than 1% attendance from all Texas Park attendees?
Is this how TPWD plans to spend our tax dollars? The Texas legislators already said NO to eminent domain. So have the Freestone County Commissioners.
TPWD has a chance to finally listen to the Commissioners of Freestone County and the elected politicians of the State of Texas who have said NO to eminent domain.
They can stop this proceeding now.