State Halts Eminent Domain Efforts to Take State Park
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has decided to halt its efforts to use eminent domain to seize the land of the former Fairfield State Park in Freestone County, southeast of Dallas, to maintain the property as a public state park.
The private property owners, Todd Interests, purchased the land in June for about $103 million from the former owners Vistra Energy, after TPWD initially declined to buy the property because the agency did not want to purchase the full 5,000 acres, only the 1,820-acre portion that housed the state park. Todd Interests intends to develop the property for a multi-million dollar gated community and golf course.
TPWD decided to pursue the power of eminent domain shortly after Todd Interests purchased the property and filed a petition to seize the property. The special commissioners in the case convened a special commissioners’ hearing and determined that the compensation for the taking was $418 million, about four times more than what Todd Interests paid.
TPWD, which had claimed the property was only worth $85 million, could have objected to the special commissioners’ award and tried the case to a jury, but ultimately abandoned the taking. TPWD did not state why it abandoned the taking, but it is likely because the financial cost or the optics of the taking didn’t justify the continued pursuit of the property.
It is unusual for the State of Texas to abandon eminent domain takings, and this outcome is a significant victory for landowner rights.