Real Estate

For Now, State Shelves Proposal to Swap Devils River Land With Dallas Homebuilder

On Friday we took a look at the Texas Park and Wildlife Department's proposed land swap with Dallas's Rod Sanders, co-founder of Huntington Homes. The states offering to swap the 20,000-acre Devils River State Natural Area in Val Verde County for Sanders's 17,638 acres further downriver. Sanders would also take home a not-too-shabby $8 million. Said the state last month, it needs homebuilder's ranch because it has "significantly more river frontage and better public access as well as outstanding natural and cultural features."

But, for now at least, the deal's off: The TPWD just sent word that the proposal's been "postponed." The state was trying to push through the deal on a shortened time line that, as far as many of the river's biggest fans were concerned, almost completely bypassed the public comment period and threatened to empty the department's coffers. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission's Conservation Committee was scheduled to vote on the deal Thursday, but instead it'll be briefed on the swap behind closed doors and during a public hearing -- one of several open-door meetings to be scheduled "in coming weeks," per the release.

"This is unquestionably the right and responsible course of action," says TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith in a statement that just landed in the Unfair Park in-box. "We have heard loudly and clearly from trusted partners, stakeholders, and many interested citizens, many of whom have requested more time to consider this project. Quite simply, we have an obligation to our constituents, who maintain appropriately high expectations about the level of public engagement needed before a decision of this magnitude is reached. We will not compromise that public trust and have advised our commission of the importance of deferring formal action on this proposal."