Todd Interests Wins Fight To Build $1B Luxury Development As Texas Abandons Pursuit Of Eminent Domain
Texas has lost its battle to take back Fairfield Lake State Park, putting to bed a months-long standoff with a Dallas developer and securing the future of a massive residential development.
Todd Interests will move forward with plans to build a $1B luxury gated community and country club on 5,000 acres in Freestone County now that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has agreed not to use eminent domain to seize the property or its water rights, according to The Real Deal.
“It is a tribute to the undaunting courage of the elected Freestone County officials, who stood with unwavering resolve against former appointed [Texas Parks and Wildlife Department] leadership that enacted policy that was against not only the state legislature, but the inherent rights of all Texas property owners,” Todd Interests Partner Shawn Todd said in a statement to TRD.
As part of the agreement, Todd agreed to drop his pursuit of public records, some of which had already revealed unseemly behavior on the part of commissioners.
In one document, former Chairman and Buc-ee’s owner Arch “Beaver” Aplin texted an advocate that the state should “use eminent domain to punish those bastards,” TRD reported.
The decision comes after months of failed negotiations between the two parties that put the age-old debate of property rights versus the preservation of public land in the spotlight.
TPWD commissioners voted to condemn the site in June after Todd Interests bought the property for $110M from private energy company Vistra, which had leased the land to the state at no cost since 1971.
After several failed offers to purchase the property from Todd Interests, the state began the eminent domain process. Bulldozers began to clear land for construction earlier this summer.
Then, in November, Todd Interests scored another major win when Freestone County commissioners valued the land at just over $418M, much higher than the $85M value asserted by the state but in the ballpark of the $475M quoted by the Todd Interests.
For its part, the department said it could no longer pursue eminent domain due to its fiduciary duty to the state. Voters in November approved a $1B fund for the acquisition of new parkland, which should enable greater access for Texas parkgoers even as Fairfield Lake State Park goes offline.