Todd rips into Texas leaders on state park

State wants eminent domain, turned down two chances to buy Fairfield State Park

From left: Todd Interests' Philip Todd, Shawn Todd and Patrick Todd; Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission's Beaver Alpin (Getty, Todd Interests)

From left: Todd Interests’ Philip Todd, Shawn Todd and Patrick Todd; Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission’s Beaver Alpin (Getty, Todd Interests)

Developer Todd Interests criticized the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in a blistering letter expressing “astonishment” at the state’s move to retake a state park that the firm recently bought. 

The state is moving to condemn the site and buy it through eminent domain, KSAT reported.

“Is this how you fulfill Governor Abbott’s promise that ‘Texas is wide open for business’?” the letter asks.

Fairfield State Park in Freestone County closed in February, after the Dallas-based firm put the property under contract, with plans to build a $1 billion resort with a golf course and 400 single-family homes.

Vistra Energy and its predecessors had leased the Freestone County property, whose 2,400-acre lake was created for a coal-fired power plant, to the State of Texas at no cost since the park opened in 1976. When Vistra closed its plant and moved in 2018, it gave the state the option to buy the 5,000-acre park. The state again rejected its option in 2020, when Vistra was preparing to put it on the market, the letter states.

The Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife, “said it had no interest in acquiring all of the land or the lake and did not have the funds to purchase the land TPWD had leased,” the letter states.

Todd Interests often acquires “out of the box real estate opportunities,” according to its website. The firm found out Fairfield State Park was for sale because the Dallas Morning News published a story about the listing in October 2021.

The firm closed on its purchase June 1, and construction equipment has already been moved to the site, according to the letter.

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Texas Parks and Wildlife officials countered the accusations, saying the department made multiple attempts to purchase Fairfield Lake State Park and took extraordinary steps to negotiate an outcome that would benefit Todd Interests while preserving the public asset. They offered a $25 million contract assignment to allow the department to purchase the park from Vistra Corp. 

But Todd says the written offer came in on May 12, eight months after the firm met with Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission chair Beaver Aplin.

“Chairman Aplin made no secret of his desire for our transaction to fail, and after we refused to simply walk away from our business transaction he made numerous verbal threats, apparently orchestrated multiple failed legislative actions and in our opinion, spoke many untruths,” the letter states.

Two proposals in the Texas Legislature aimed to block the development but failed to move out of Texas Senate and House of Representatives committees.

“We have heard from Texans and state leaders who have told us unequivocally that they want to keep Fairfield Lake State Park open for public recreation and enjoyment, not gate it off for exclusive use. TPWD’s mission compels us to try to save not only the park, but one of our state’s finest fisheries. At 10:30 a.m. June 10, commissioners will meet to consider our options for doing so.”

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To exercise eminent domain in this case would send an anti-Texan message to the world, Todd said.

“A state once considered the vanguard of private property rights would now take from its citizens and diminish the rights of sellers, buyers and private-property owners of every order,” the letter states.