The Commissioners of the Land Office voted to sue the private developer tasked with building a four-star hotel on Lake Texoma.
The commission, led by Gov. Mary Fallin, voted Thursday morning to file a lawsuit against Oklahoma City-based Pointe Vista Development LLC over the lack of progress on the project, on the site of a former state lodge at Lake Texoma State Park.
Under the terms of Pointe Vista's contract with the state of Oklahoma, the developer was supposed to have construction on the hotel substantially underway by May 2014, but even preliminary work has yet to begin.
As part of Pointe Vista's agreement with the state, the commissioners have the right to sue Pointe Vista to enforce terms of the contract, commission secretary Harry Birdwell said.
“The Commissioners of the Land Office has worked for months to reach a solution that will bring economic development to the area,” Birdwell said in a statement. “However, in the last few weeks, it has become increasingly clear that a lawsuit is one of the few remaining options to achieve a desirable outcome for the community. Today's decision does not mean we will lessen our efforts if other options present themselves.”
Speaking with reporters at the state Capitol on Thursday, Fallin declined to comment on Pointe Vista because of the legal issues involved.
In a statement, Pointe Vista said it was “disappointed” that the commission had decided to take legal action.
“This legal path will most assuredly delay any development efforts for many years,” the developer said.
Pointe Vista was selected by the state in 2006 to develop part of Lake Texoma State Park. The group is led by Chaparral Energy CEO Mark Fischer, son Scott Fischer and Chesapeake Energy Corp. co-founder Aubrey McClendon
Pointe Vista signed a deal with the Commissioners of the Land Office in 2006 to purchase 758 acres of park land at Lake Texoma for $14.6 million.
Plans for the development include a four-star hotel where a now-demolished state lodge once stood. However, construction has yet to begin.
Marshall County Commissioner Chris Duroy, who represents the town of Kingston near where the Lake Texoma state lodge stood, said he is pleased the commission decided to sue Pointe Vista.
“I don't know what took them so long,” Duroy said. “Pointe Vista hasn't held up their end of the agreement, and economy-wise, it has hurt Marshall County pretty bad.”
Tourism dollars from visitors to Lake Texoma are vital to the economy in Marshall County, and the lack of progress on the development since the old state lodge has been torn down has driven some visitors away, Duroy said.
Vacant cabins on the former state park land are an ugly reminder of the stalled development, he said.
“It's getting to be an eyesore — not a place where people want to come and spend their money and hang out on the lake,” Duroy said.
The sale of an additional 1,022 acres of land to Pointe Vista, negotiated with the Tourism Department in 2008, has yet to be finalized because Pointe Vista has not completed an environmental impact study required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to transfer some of the land that is held by the federal government.
In its statement, Pointe Vista said it is reconsidering whether to pay for the environmental study in order to complete its purchase of additional land on Lake Texoma in light of the commission's decision to file a lawsuit.
“The issues are complex and involve multiple agreements and multiple departments of the state, including not only the Commissioners of Land Office but also the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department,” Pointe Vista said.
“Any litigation brought by the Commissioners of Land Office will likely result in further actions with possibly additional parties to fully vet all the issues. At this point, we will be compelled to refocus our efforts on the lawsuit and reassess whether to proceed with providing additional funding for the Corps of Engineers' lake-wide Environmental Impact Study further delaying that process.”