Texas Land Grab: Eminent Domain Threatens Private Property and Democracy

Once again, the state of Texas is being sneaky by thinking about using eminent domain to steal a piece of private land from a company that builds homes. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (TPWC) wants to buy a piece of land that includes Fairfield Lake State Park. The land was bought from the company that leased it to the state by a real estate development company.

Todd Interests, which is based in Dallas, wants to turn the land into a closed community with homes that cost more than $1 million and a golf course. But in the past, lawmakers thought about letting the state use eminent domain to take over the land. A bill that was brought up in the senate was changed a lot so that it would focus on water rights in the lake instead of eminent domain.

Also, TPWC is taking its employees out of the state park as the deal between Vistra and Todd Interests comes to a close. The agency wanted to buy only the part of the land where the park is. This is at the heart of the problem. Still, Vistra wanted to sell the whole plot, not just parts of it. Todd Interests said it is ready to fight the state if it decides to use eminent domain to take over the property. But because this is against the law in Texas, the company will have a hard time.

The state's repeated use of eminent domain to take private property in the name of the "public good" is an authorized violation of property rights. Todd Interests gave TPWD several chances to buy the land, but they didn't take any of them. Instead, they made a deal with the land's owner, Vistra Energy, to develop the land.

TPWD should look into other options that take care of the atmosphere and respect property rights. For example, the state could have negotiated to buy the whole plot, then sold the part it didn't need to another private company. But it seems like the state would rather use its power to take the land by force because they don't want to negotiate in good faith.

Texas should have a serious conversation with Todd Interests and Vistra Energy, looking for partnerships or considering possible compromises that would be good for both sides. Instead, the government is willing to take private property by misusing eminent domain, which is a move that insults democracy and those who believe in property rights.

Written by Staff Reports

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