Fairfield Lake eminent domain brawl ends in win for Todd Interests

Parks and Wildlife Commission drops plans to seize property

Fairfield Lake Eminent Domain Brawl Ends in win for Todd Interests

Todd Interests’ Shawn Todd and Freestone Club rendering (Getty, Todd Interests, Fairfield State Park)

The battle over Fairfield Lake State Park has ended in a win for Dallas developer Shawn Todd. 

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission won’t seize the 5,000-acre property in Freestone County, making way for Todd’s firm Todd Interests to continue with its plans to develop a $1 billion luxury subdivision. The Parks and Wildlife Commission has agreed not to exercise its power of eminent domain on the property — or its water rights — in the future.

Todd called the decision a “monumental and historic victory” for the people of Freestone County. 

“It is a tribute to the undaunting courage of the elected Freestone County officials, who stood with unwavering resolve against former appointed TPWD leadership that enacted policy that was against not only the state legislature, but the inherent rights of all Texas property owners,” Todd told The Real Deal

The department said it has a responsibility to “manage the state’s fiscal resources to maximize the benefits of our parks for all Texans,” in a statement. 

As part of the settlement, Todd agreed to drop its public records requests for communications between state officials and the parks and wildlife department. The requests had already yielded small batches of documents, including a text chain between former parks commission chairman Arch “Beaver” Aplin and an advocate who said he thought the state should “use eminent domain to punish those bastards.” 

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After leasing the park for decades, the state was initially interested in purchasing part of the park from owner Vista Corp, but opted not to when Vista insisted on selling the entire property. In June, Todd Interests purchased the property from Vista Corp for $110 million. The day after the purchase, the parks and wildlife commission voted unanimously to take the land by eminent domain, igniting a bitter fight between the property rights advocates and Texans intent on saving the park. 

While Todd Interests began to build its development, the commission initiated the eminent domain process. 

In November, the battle waged on as the parties debated the value of the park. The state asserted a value of $85 million, but Freestone County Commissioners Court valued the tract at $418.3 million, a win for Todd Interests, which advocated for the land to be valued at $475 million. 

Voters last month approved a $1 billion fund for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to acquire new park land. But Fairfield Lake State Park only accounted for a small portion of overall park attendance when it was open. 

“The citizens of Texas have always shown strong support for expanded access to state parks, and I believe there is a promising future for outdoor recreation in our great state,” the department said. 

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