The privatization of Lake Texoma State Park appears to have been set up from the start by state officials and politicians working closely with a prominent Oklahoma City law firm. After failing to construct their promised hotel and convention center which was due in May 2014, Pointe Vista Development was sued by the state Commissioners of the Land Office. The CLO budgeted $250K for the first year of litigation and recently approved $150K funding for each additional year, if needed.
More than a year has passed since the first court hearing in Oklahoma County District Courton May 16, 2014. Judge Roger Stuart had ordered the attorneys to create a hearing schedule within two weeks. They filed the Scheduling Order and announced that the Tourism Department was joining as a co-defendant in the case 10 months later on March 9 of this year after The Oklahoman reported “Pointe Vista lawsuit stalled” in mid-February.
On March 19, attorneys filed a request for mediation and announced that any other parties to join the suit would need to file in the court by May 29. Pointe Vista also wants to remove restrictions on some of the Lake Texoma State Park land purchased in 2008. Judge Stuart also ordered the parties to move forward with Mediation.
Specific performance means Pointe Vista would get more time to build
At the first hearing last year on May 16, McAfee & Taft attorney Michael McClintock argued that the state’s sole remedy to Pointe Vista’s breach of contract is “specific performance.” In other words, they can be compelled to go forward with construction within some reasonable time frame. But that is all that can be ordered by the court.
The CLO’s independent legal counsel argued Pointe Vista was responsible for their own failure to construct the hotel and convention center. With two weeks left to fulfill that promise by May 31, they had not even broken ground yet. The CLO argued that specific performance was therefore unconstitutional under state law because it didn’t provide a meaningful remedy. Additional remedies they requested are: (1) court costs and (2) the right to rescind the original land sales to Pointe Vista as if they had never happened.
Pointe Vista countered by claiming that the state entered into a contract to sell an additional 1,122 acres (aka “Area C”) of Lake Texoma State Park and adjacent undeveloped shoreline acreage south of the park. They allege that the state failed to provide Pointe Vista with Area C, and therefore caused the delay in construction. Without Area C, Pointe Vista claimed, they could not fully realize the ultimate value of the whole project.
The CLO attorneys responded by stating that the contract for Area C was not theirs. They had provided Pointe Vista with the entire 758 acres required for the Lake Texoma Redevelopment. The June, 2008, “secret contract” for Area C was between Pointe Vista and the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department (OTRD), not the CLO. The CLO claimed that they are different agencies and that Pointe Vista is treating them as if they are one and the same.
Pointe Vista abandoned the EIS needed for Area C land transfer
Pointe Vista and the Tourism Department initiated the required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in September, 2009 to study the proposed transfer (sale) of Area C from the federal government to the state. Later on Pointe Vista refused to pay the estimated $2 million to complete the EIS. According to the Corps of Engineers, Pointe Vista and Tourism put the EIS “on hold” in 2011 before a Draft EIS was ever contracted. They abandoned the 2009 EIS.
The 2005 Environmental Assessment prior to the first federal land transfer did not provide environmental approvals for privatization of Areas A or B purchased by Pointe Vista in 2008. When Pointe Vista bailed out of the 2009 environmental study, they left themselves without any environmental approvals for constructing a hotel, a convention center or their planned rental town homes on Chickasaw Pointe Golf Course. This creates a problem with “specific performance.”
Both Pointe Vista and Tourism know that the contract for Area C had nothing to do with the state land commission. Regardless of this fact, Tourism filed notice they are joining the case in support of Pointe Vista. Now we have a taxpayer funded CLO lawsuit against Pointe Vista, and taxpayer funded Tourism Department defending Pointe Vista. This promises to get even weirder.
OK County Court filings send mixed messages
On one hand, it appears that CLO v Pointe Vista is preparing to move forward with the discovery phase of the suit, to address the issue of specific performance as ordered by Judge Stuart over a year ago. On the other hand, Pointe Vista recently filed a motion to lift certain legal restrictions on some of the land tracts subject to the litigation.
This raises several questions about what the Commissioners of the Land Office will mediate:
* Will they agree to removing restrictions on former Lake Texoma State Park lands before the case has been tried? If so, why would they do that? Does Pointe Vista want to sell it?
* Will they mediate a solution which allows Pointe Vista to profit from their failure to construct the contracted four star hotel and convention center?
* Will they leave Pointe Vista in possession of Lake Texoma State Park land where they have announced plans to construct private “stay and play” rental town homes?
Are the state land commissioners, including Gov. Mary Fallin and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, serious about prosecuting this case in the public interest on behalf of Oklahoma taxpayers?
The Commissioners of the Land Office and Pointe Vista created this mess in the first place. Is the CLO going to follow through with the case and seriously attempt to take back Lake Texoma State Park? Or are they preparing to sell us out for the sake of political expediency?
Submitted by Stephen Willis
Save Lake Texoma/Restore The Park