Firm that bought Fairfield Lake State Park land accuses state of acting in bad faith, attempting to derail its purchase

State park closed to the public on June 4 after Todd Interests rejected $25M purchase bid from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
FILE PHOTO: Fairfield Lake
FILE PHOTO: Fairfield Lake(KWTX)
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 10:34 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Todd Interests, the firm that acquired the land in and around Fairfield Lake State Park, and recently rejected a purchase bid from the state, is defending its decision, and criticizing a possible plan by the state to acquire the property through condemnation.

“We cannot begin to express our astonishment that officials appointed by Governor Abbott, and approved by Lt. Governor Patrick and the Texas Senate, are considering the condemnation of private property that TPWD had numerous opportunities to acquire,” Todd Interests wrote in a letter to Texas Parks and Wildlife commissioners.

“Is this how you fulfill Governor Abbott’s promise that ‘Texas is wide open for business?’ As a family-owned, Texas-based business, and longtime supporters of our state’s pro-business policies, we sincerely hope not,” the letter states.

Fairfield Lake State Park was closed to the public at 10 p.m. Sunday, June 4, after Todd Interests rejected a $25 million bid from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman Arch Aplin III said commissioners will “continue to pursue options for saving Fairfield Lake State Park, including through condemnation.”

In the meantime, TPWD staff must focus on decommissioning the property before the state’s lease ends on June 13. The park had been open for day use visitation while TPWD “took persistent and extraordinary steps to negotiate” with Todd Interests, TPWD said.

WATCH: KWTX spoke with Texans who hope the state is able to save the state park. This interview aired prior to the latest developments.

In its letter to TPWD commissioners, Todd Interests claimed the state had numerous opportunities to acquire the property dating back to 2018 when the power plant that owned the land closed.

“We knew that TPWD leased a portion of the Property for 50 years, and that during that half-century span, it failed to express any interest in acquiring from the property from Luminant. After Luminant enlisted a real estate firm to market Fairfield Lake in 2021 for $110 million, TPWD still took no action,” Todd Interests wrote. “We had no reason to believe that the State of Texas wanted to acquire Fairfield Lake when we made an offer on the Property.”

Furthermore, Todd Interests accused the state, and Aplin, in particular, of attempting to sabotage its purchase of the massive property. The State of Texas, the firm claims, “spent the last eight months working to derail our transaction and diminish our transactional rights. Chairman Aplin made no secret of his desire for our transaction to fail.”

On June 1, Todd Interests fulfilled its contractual obligation, and purchased the land from Luminant.

On Monday, June 5, park staff began removing equipment and relocating staff members. Closure of the park also means the public’s loss of access to the two public boat ramps and a fishing pier on Fairfield Lake, a popular bass fishery.

Commissioners will hold a special meeting at 10:30 a.m. on June 10 to consider acquiring - through condemnation - the 5,000-acre property in Freestone County that includes Fairfield Lake and Fairfield Lake State Park.

Andrew Morriss, a law professor who specializes in eminent domain, told the Texas Tribune the state has the power to seize the property through condemnation because the land would serve a public purpose.

“Texas is what is called a quick take state,” Morriss told the Texas Tribune. “If the government wants your property and you don’t wanna sell it, too bad, they get it.”

Morriss told the Texas Tribune the next step is for the state to notify Todd Interests it will be taking the land, and make an offer.