The Real Estate Council opposes eminent domain use for state park

Largest CRE body in Texas says parks and wildlife decision “sets dangerous precedent”

The Real Estate Council's Linda McMahon and Fairfield Lake State Park at 123 State Park Rd. 64 in Fairfield, TX
The Real Estate Council's Linda McMahon and Fairfield Lake State Park at 123 State Park Rd. 64 in Fairfield, TX (Google Maps, LinkedIn)

Real estate leadership is weighing in on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission’s decision to retake Fairfield Lake State Park via eminent domain, and they aren’t happy.  

The Real Estate Council, the largest body of commercial real estate professionals in Texas, sent a June 27 letter to the commission requesting it immediately reverse its decision to force the sale of 5,000 acres that includes the state park and Fairfield Lake. The Dallas-based real estate council, known as TREC, addressed its letter directly to commission chairman Beaver Aplin, the billionaire owner of Buc-ee’s convenience stores.

“TREC understands that over the course of many months, the TPWC declined multiple opportunities to purchase the property from the previous owner in both off-market transactions and during an openly marketed sales process,” it reads. 

The decision to use eminent domain on a fairly purchased private land sets a “dangerous precedent for property rights and ownership in Texas that must be reversed,” the letter states. 

A state agency with the power to retake land after an expired government lease without any support from the Texas Legislature is “extremely troubling,” it states. 

The letter, embedded below, is signed by TREC president Linda McMahon.

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The parks commission voted unanimously on June 10 to pursue eminent domain, in a move to save the state park, which sits in East Texas, between Waco and Nacogdoches. 

Dallas-based Todd Interests closed on its purchase of the 5,000-acre park and 2,400-acre lake on June 1. Previous owner Vistra Corp put the site on the market several years ago. The State of Texas leased a portion of the land for the park, but reportedly declined to purchase it. The land was marketed publicly and listed at $110 million before Todd Interests’ winning bid and plan to build a $1 billion luxe resort with a golf course and 400 single-family homes.

Aplin and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission haven’t responded to a request for comment. Alpin has said the decision to use eminent domain was a last resort to save the “beloved park.”

“This commission has zero interest in condemning farms, ranches, working lands,” Aplin said. “We do not take this decision lightly.”

This is not the first letter TWPC has received in opposition of its decision. Elected commissioners from Freestone County, where the park is located, called Texas Parks and Wildlife’s decision to use eminent domain “an abuse of power and government overreach.” 

The county cited a projected $20 million in annual tax revenue for Freestone County and the Fairfield Independent School District from the proposed Todd development.

“We’re hopeful that message will make its way across the state and that people will clearly see what’s happening,” Shawn Todd, CEO of Todd Interests said.

The Real Estate Council counts more than 2,000 members from various CRE organizations across Texas. It aims to influence the commercial market through networking events, educational programs and leadership development, according to its website.

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