Fairfield Lake State Park fight heats up

Dallas-based developer Shawn Todd said he's going forward with development of the property despite the ongoing eminent domain battle over the property. Photo courtesy of TPWD.

July 7, 2023

Last month, park lovers cheered when Texas Parks and Wildlife Department voted unanimously to use eminent domain to stop development of a 5,000-acre property, south of Dallas that included Fairfield Lake State Park.

It seemed the nearly 50-year-old beloved recreation spot, which draws more than 80,000 visitors a year, might be saved from being turned into a luxury golf course community.

“Condemnation represents an extraordinary step and last resort for TPWD, and it is not one we undertake lightly,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman Arch “Beaver” Aplin III, in early June. “However, TPWD’s mission calls for managing and conserving the natural resources of Texas for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Fairfield Lake State Park has welcomed millions of visitors over half a century, and we have a clear mandate to preserve this public resource that is beloved by so many.”

But Dallas-based developer Shawn Todd is fighting back.

Todd hosted a press event at the Freestone County Courthouse on Thursday to complain about the state’s latest move. He cast himself as the underdog and says his property rights are being infringed upon.

“[It is] The open and brazen abuse of power by appointed officials, not elected officials, and their weaponization of a state agency to wrongly take something that is not theirs,” said Todd, reported NBCDFW.

Dallas-based Todd Interests closed on the property it bought from Vistra Corp on June 1 for a reported $110.5 million. 

On June 10, TPWD voted unanimously to use eminent domain to seize the property after Todd Interests rejected the state's $25 million offer to buy out the contract, which would have allowed TPWD to purchase the park from Vistra.

Now a coalition of park supporters fear the developer is quickly gaining allies in the community.

“Todd is on a charm offensive in Freestone County,” said Luke Metzger, executive director for Environment Texas, who has been campaigning on the park's behalf. 

In late June, Freestone County Judge Linda Grant, who had been a vocal supporter of saving Fairfield Lake State Park, abruptly reversed her support and led the Freestone County Commissioners in urging TPWD to stop the eminent domain process.  

After appearing on a local radio show making his case to listeners, Todd raised eyebrows when he paid a record $34K for the Grand Champion Steer at the Freestone County Fair.

According to Fox4, Todd admits his company is already developing the land and intends to start selling lots soon, despite the ongoing legal dispute. 

"We're moving forward, we're developing property,” Todd said Thursday. “At present, we have strong market demand. Our legal documents are in place.”

Misti Little, a member of Save Fairfield Lake Park and a Houston-area blogger who has been visiting the park since she was a child, is concerned that these developments are all happening under most Texans' radar. She worries over the fate of the 900 species of plants and wildlife documented at the natural area, including the bald eagle. 

“Our goal is really just to get more eyes on this story, to bring to light that the developer is still proceeding with clearing and his plans despite the eminent domain. I don't think enough citizens really know what is going on.”


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