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Tension Mounts Between Todd Interests, State As Dirt Turns At Fairfield Lake State Park

Todd Interests is moving forward with plans to build on the recently shuttered Fairfield Lake State Park despite a June vote to seize the land via eminent domain.

The Dallas-based developer, well known for The National and other adaptive reuse projects downtown, released a video this week showing large trucks and bulldozers clearing land for the construction of Freestone Club, a 5,000-acre luxury gated community featuring multimillion-dollar homes and a country club.

Fairfield Lake State Park is about 90 miles south of Dallas.

The situation has pitted the use of eminent domain and preserving public land against private property rights.

Founder and CEO Shawn Todd purchased the land from privately owned energy company Vistra in a deal that closed June 1, per The Dallas Morning News. Prior to that, the state had leased the land from Vistra at no cost since 1971. 

Less than a week after the park closed to the public on June 4, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department voted to condemn the property using eminent domain, a move Todd Interests has denounced as a flagrant violation of property rights. 

TPWD commissioners, including Buc-ee’s CEO and owner Arch “Beaver” Aplin III, called the use of eminent domain a last resort that came only after the department made multiple attempts to purchase the park from Vistra and Todd Interests. 

Vistra listed the land for $110M in 2021. One offer from the TPWD was for $95M, according to a letter obtained by the DMN. In another attempt to purchase the land, the department offered Todd Interests $25M to back out of its contract.

Todd Interests is operating within its rights as a property owner by continuing work on the property, a TPWD spokesperson told the DMN upon seeing the promotional video, although the department’s intention remains to condemn the land. 

The next step for the TPWD is to provide the developer with an appraisal-based offer for the property, per the DMN. As of Wednesday, no such proposal had been extended.