The state moved one step closer Wednesday toward buying 10,015 acres of the Oaky Woods tract in Middle Georgia after a divided Natural Resources Board approved spending $28.7 million in taxpayer money for it.
The board voted 11-6 in favor of buying the land from a group of investors called Oaky Woods Properties LLC, which planned to develop the property before the real estate market crashed. The proposal now goes to the State Properties Commission for a decision Monday.
After Wednesday’s vote, some Natural Resources Board members said the state is preparing to pay too much for the land. State records show two separate appraisals were done for a larger chunk of the property — 10,215 acres — this year. One totals $24.5 million – or $2,405 per acre — and the other totals $30.7 million, or $3,009 an acre.
The state is now preparing to pay $2,874 per acre. In comparison, Oaky Woods Properties bought the land years ago for $1,600 an acre.
“It was too high,” board member Thomas Wheeler Jr. said of the proposed sales price after voting against the purchase.
Other board members said they voted for the purchase to protect the pristine wilderness from development. State officials say that tract is popular among hunters and fishermen and serves as a home to black bears, endangered plant species and unique prairies.
“If we want our children or grandchildren to be able to see how beautiful this state is, we have got to save these properties,” said board member Warren Budd Jr., who voted for the purchase.
In 2004, a timber company that owned Oaky Woods offered it for sale to the state. The state, however, decided it could not afford the asking price for the entire tract, despite an offer by the Nature Conservancy to bid $26 million for the property if the state agreed to buy it from the private environmental group later. It was sold instead for $32 million — about $1,600 an acre — to Oaky Woods Properties, which is owned by Charlie McGlamry, Charles Ayer, Scott Free and Art Williams Jr.