Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Executive Director David Yoskowitz said that Texas will cease efforts to acquire Fairfield Lake in Freestone County via eminent domain.
The December 5 announcement ends months of legal wrangling including condemnation proceedings initiated by TPWD against Dallas-based developer Todd Interests, which paid $103 million to buy the property from Vistra on June 1.
Statement from David Yoskowitz
“TPWD recognizes the importance of conserving our state’s natural resources and providing recreational opportunities for Texans,” said TPWD Executive Director David Yoskowitz in a press release. “However, TPWD must also responsibly manage the state’s fiscal resources in order to maximize the benefit of our parks for all Texans.”
On November 15, a three-member special commission appointed to ascertain the fair market value of the property determined that it was worth $418 valuation, a figure that represented more than four times what Todd Interests paid five months earlier and almost five times the $85 million valuation that the state contended that the 5,025 acres were worth. Todd Interests’ attorneys pegged the value at $475 million. The gain in value was attributed to the presence of the permitted, 2,400-acre reservoir on the property known as Fairfield Lake.
Largest Privately Owned Lake in Texas
In October 2021, Fairfield Lake was listed for sale for $110.55 million by Vistra, a Fortune 500 electricity and power generation company based in Irving, Texas. The 2,400-acre body of water was the standout feature of the 5,025-acre property. Cash McWhorter of Hortenstine Ranch Company had the listing.
On June 1, Todd Interests paid $103 million for the property.
For almost 50 years, TPWD had paid $1 annually to lease 1,800 acres of the acreage and operate Fairfield Lake State Park. Todd Interests terminated the lease shortly after the purchase and began moving forward with the construction of a gated luxury community.
Victory for Ranchers, Farmers, Landowners
“This monumental and historic victory belongs to the ranchers, farmers, landowners, and people of Freestone County,” Todd Interests CEO Shawn Todd said in a written statement to The Dallas Morning News. “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. The Todd Interests team could not have stayed in this fight without the firm commitment from our financial partners to fight this unprecedented action.”