Texas will no longer try to seize former Fairfield Lake State Park site through eminent domain

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The state of Texas is ending its efforts to seize a 5,000-acre property that includes the site of the former Fairfield Lake State Park.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said Tuesday it would not longer pursue acquisition of the property, putting an end to a years-long process that started in 2018, when the landowner announced it planned to sell the land. TPWD had leased part of the property at no cost for 50 years.

The new landowner, Todd Interests, a Dallas-based developer, is turning the Freestone County site, about 70 miles east of Waco, into a luxury, private development.

The state’s decision comes less than a month after a special commission determined the value of the property at more than $418 million. During that hearing, TPWD had tried to argue the property was worth $85 million.

Todd purchased the property for “just north” of $100 million but said the site was worth a lot more than that. In June, he told KXAN his bank had appraised the value of the property’s water rights alone at $238 million.

“TPWD recognizes the importance of conserving our state’s natural resources and providing recreational opportunities for Texans,” Executive Director David Yoskowitz said in a statement Tuesday. “However, TPWD must also responsibly manage the state’s fiscal resources in order to maximize the benefit of our parks for all Texans.”

The department also said it does not intend to use eminent domain to obtain a portion of the property in the future, including water rights. “This means there will be no efforts to establish a state park or any other use on [the] property,” a statement said.

“We want to thank the staff and visitors who made Fairfield Lake State Park such a special place for the past half century, as well as those who have supported the effort to save the park, said Rodney Franklin, director of Texas State Parks.

The park welcomed more than 80,000 visitors in FY 2022, and more than 45,000 in FY 2023 before closing to the public on June 4.

Shawn Todd, CEO of Todd Interests, previously walked KXAN through his plans to turn the site into a luxury private development. In addition to the 400 lakefront homes, the development will feature “amenities a family should expect from a world-class resort,” including a clubhouse, restaurant, resort pool and a “championship-level” golf course. Construction began in June.

KXAN has reached out to Todd regarding Tuesday’s developments and will update this story when we hear back.

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