Dallas developer against state's eminent domain plan for Fairfield Lake State Park

A Dallas-based developer is ready for a legal fight against the state after they announced plans to seize thousands of acres from the developer through eminent domain.

The property is at Fairfield State Park, which is in Freestone County, about 100 miles southeast of Dallas.

The state wants to take it to keep it open for public use.

Todd Interests announced it was making an announcement Thursday, but instead, an attorney representing the family made a statement, saying she was hired to protect her client's property rights and to put an end to what she says is misinformation being spread by park officials.

She left without taking any questions from reporters.

The future of the popular state park remains in legal limbo.


Texas Parks and Wildlife Department opts for eminent domain to save Fairfield Lake State Park

With only three days left on the state’s lease, the agency unanimously voted to condemn almost 5,000 acres in Freestone County in an effort to keep the park open to the public after developers purchased the property to build a gated community.

Todd Interests, the Dallas-based buyer of the nearly 5,000 acres of land that includes Fairfield Lake State Park, is at odds with the state, which is now trying to take it back by invoking "eminent domain."

"The commission showed no interest in acquiring the park for the residents of Texas when it had the opportunity," said Monica Latin, attorney representing Todd Interests.

Prior to the sale, the most recent owners, Vistra Corp., leased the land to the state for public use for 50 years.

That deal closed on June 1.

On Saturday, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to seize the property, citing the park's status as a public space.

"Vistra made this decision after the state of Texas declined multiple opportunities to purchase the property," Latin explained.

Texas’ use of eminent domain is an effort to keep Fairfield Lake State Park, a space known for bass fishing and family-friendly recreational activities, open to the public.

"The sad fact is that the state government has a lot of taking power, eminent domain power, in our government system," said David Coale, who is a constitutional law attorney not involved in this case.

Todd Interest’s plans, which proposed a $1 billion gated community, have been met by opposition by environment advocates, local residents, and business owners.

Coale said Texas landowners have a constitutional right to fair compensation.

"At the end of the day, so long as the state's willing to write a big enough check, they can condemn this property for use as a park," he said.

At Thursday’s news conference, Latin did not take any questions, so it's unclear what the state is offering as "fair market value."

Latin said she had been hired to ensure that her client's property rights are protected and the false statements Latin claims are being made by park officials stop.

"The press release suggests that the Todd family would divert the lake's water and lower the water level, reducing the shoreline and impacting wildlife. That is not true. The lake's world-class fishing and boating venue are at the center of the Todd's development plan," Latin said.

The developer, Shawn Todd said he has not received an official notice from the Texas Attorney General's Office condemning the land.

Regardless, he believes doing so would be in contradiction to what the state legislature approved this session. 

Texas Parks and Wildlife requested and received an appropriation from the legislature for the proposed acquisition of this park and other strategic state park purchases.

The key point in this, according to Todd, is their request stated that the funds would only be used for acquisitions from willing sellers.