Faced with budget cuts and a bevy of deferred maintenance problems at Lake Texoma State Park, the Tourism Department negotiated the deal with Pointe Vista because it believed that a private developer could bring in more tourism dollars to the state by creating a resort-like atmosphere, Watkins said.
The development plans included condominiums, a four-star hotel and a water park.
“It was a pretty comprehensive agreement, and we negotiated deadlines for development with ramifications if those deadlines weren't met,” Watkins said.
Watkins, who now works in the private sector, said he could not speak for the state on the matter, but he said the confidentiality agreement was meant to keep speculators out of the area around Lake Texoma who could drive up the cost of surrounding land for the development.
“There were discussions about per-acre cost of the land, and there was a fear that negotiations could drive up costs,” Watkins said.
The state's Tourism and Recreation Commission voted on the contract after several public discussions about the development, he said.
Claudia Connor, Tourism Department general counsel, said the agency is bound by a confidentiality agreement in the contract and cannot release the document to the public without Pointe Vista's consent.
The only part of the sale contract that Connor would release is the confidentiality clause in the agreement.
The lengthy clause states that the method for calculating the purchase price of the land “has significant independent value to the parties from not being generally known and disclosed” and that the document is not subject to the state's open record law.
Connor said she was willing to give a copy of the contract to The Oklahoman, but could not, because Pointe Vista's attorneys would not consent.
“To do so would invite litigation from Pointe Vista Development,” she said.
Pointe Vista declined to comment on why it would not release the document.
A group called Restore Lake Texoma State Park sent a public records request to the Tourism Department last week requesting a copy of the contract and other documents relating to the sale of the state park land, but it has not yet received a response, organizer Lisa Davis said.
Frustrated by the lack of progress on the development, the group is opposed to the sale of additional park land to Pointe Vista.
“There are a lot of issues with this land deal that are not above board,” Davis said.