Senate leaders object to Oaky Woods deal

Turns out not everybody at the Capitol was happy with the state’s decision this week to spend almost $29 million buying part of the  Oaky Woods wilderness from Middle Georgia developers.

Republican leaders of the State Senate sent the State Properties Commission a letter asking them to delay their decision to spend $28.7 million in taxpayer money on 10,015 acres of Oaky Woods.

Oaky Woods is near land Gov. Sonny Perdue bought in 2003. The value of the governor’s land doubled after he bought it. Perdue, who leaves office next month,  is chairman of the properties commission.

Bert Brantley, his spokesman, said the state Senate leadership’s letter didn’t arrive until Monday’s meeting was underway and that it had no impact. The panel unanimously approved the deal.

The Senate letter, listing among others Senate President Pro-Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) as authors, said, “As appropriators, we are concerned with a land purchase by state government at this time and in the proposed amount.”

“Given current real estate market conditions, we believe a delay will give taxpayers an opportunity to voice their opinion without jeopardizing the opportunity to purchase this property at true fair market value if it is determined to be in the state’s best interest.

“Now, more than ever, we must treat every tax dollar we spend as if it were our own. Moreover, we must prioritize every expenditure to ensure we first meet the proper functions of government.”

The panel voted to buy part of Oaky Woods  at $2,874 per acre. In comparison, Oaky Woods Properties bought the entire tract earlier in the decade for $1,600 an acre.

Oaky Woods Properties had planned to develop the tract with shops, offices and thousands of homes before the real estate market deteriorated.

Most of the money for the purchase is coming from a $25 million bond sale approved by lawmakers earlier in the year. At the time, the bond was listed as being  for “conservation,”  but state officials said it was not designated specifically to buy Oaky Woods.

The Oaky Woods tract could have been purchased much more cheaply in 2004, but state officials said at the time that they didn’t have enough money.

Lawmakers have pointed out that the state’s fiscal situation is far worse today than it was in 2004.

When the General Assembly convenes next week, lawmakers could face a $1.8 billion to $2 billion budget hole for the upcoming year. They have cut the budget more than $3 billion in the past few years, and state employees and teachers have had to take days off without pay to help the state stay in the black.

116 comments Add your comment

Anon

December 16th, 2010
4:41 pm

Who cares about the facts? You can wave as much evidence of blatant corruption around as you want. That won’t keep the electorate down here from voting Red.

Sam I Am

December 16th, 2010
4:42 pm

Republicans voters enjoy getting screwed by their elected officials.

rip

December 16th, 2010
4:47 pm

I also agree with Tim about the editorial responsibility of the AJC.
For decades the AJC has focused public attention on the evil-doing at the Capitol. Now they have backed off to a large degree, with just a very few exceptional reporters and commentator/blogger/editorialists willing to speak truth to power.
I am starting to think that every corporate owned media outlet in the country is doing a lock step march to the drum beat of Rupert Murdoch and his evil empire of Fox News, Wall St. Journal, etc.
I long for the days of muckraking independent journalism at AJC.

Sam I Am

December 16th, 2010
4:50 pm

Thats a kicker about voting “RED”, it appears that the state gov’t books always seems to end up in the “RED”

Sam I Am

December 16th, 2010
4:53 pm

Good to see “W” and the ex-first lady in town today!!!

Robert Reeves

December 16th, 2010
4:54 pm

Shame on you, Sonny Perdue. Shame on your cronies on this State Properties Commission. I’ll say it: You’re corrupt and without a conscience. You belong in jail.

we the people

December 16th, 2010
4:59 pm

Someone stand up and say this is not right and stop this nonsense. It is not what we need to do now and especially at the price we are being forced to pay. It really smells crooked, because anyone that has dabbled in land knows it is worth less than before.

bart

December 16th, 2010
5:03 pm

Tim, you right about the AJC needing to become a good paper again and doing investigative reporting and editorializing. We have had and do have a bunch of crooks in office, and the AJC would be the logical source to keep the public informed of all the illegalities, ethics violations, and immoralities that our public officials are participating in.

strom

December 16th, 2010
5:04 pm

You can tell by Sonny,s nose that he is a closet drinker. Front row Baptist. Sonny,s claim to fame is when he was a democrat he deregulated gas. I hope I am working the gate if he gets there..

Keith

December 16th, 2010
5:05 pm

This Libertarian thinks it’s a bad deal but this is a piece of the state that is priceless in it’s long-term value and should remain wild. God put the bears and other wild things here, let’s keep a place for them to live.

Read Between the lines

December 16th, 2010
5:07 pm

“Bert Brantley, his spokesman, said the state Senate leadership’s letter didn’t arrive until Monday’s meeting was underway and that it had no impact. The panel unanimously approved the deal.”

Folks, get real here — the Senate leadership KNEW already their letter would have no impact – it was sent for one purpose and one purpose only, to give them political cover. If you can’t see that you are BLIND.

Interestingly, I’ve looked through the entirety of Title 50, Chapter 16 — and nowehere in the establishment and empowerment of this “Commission” does it give them unilateral authority to spend state money to BUY property — they are empowered to do it on the request of state agencies but that money has to come from the agency’s own budget. Even modifications to leases from the State have to go back to the legislature for review and approval. And those agency heads are policitians who can be booted. Can anyone (read AJC) find where a state agency actually asked for this and what authority they have from the legislature to do this? Can someone please figure out where this money is coming from and hwere it’s been sitting all this time? What agency will actually be required to pay for this?

This wreaks of something that was pushed through without there being any actual legal basis for it to happen this way — and everyone is sort of posturing in such a way as to make it look like — “well we didn’t have anything to do with it” — sort of like my kids when something gets broken and everyone of them yells “I don’t know” — this is political sleight of hand at its very worst. If the incoming Governor and existing legislative leadership REALLY wanted to stop this they DAMN WELL COULD.

Sorry “state” of affairs around here….. my home state I love so much is heading for the proverbial “handbasket” quickly.

DannyX

December 16th, 2010
5:13 pm

Oh my God everyone! We tried. Oh yeah, we tried so hard to stop this theft, Gosh, wow, things didn’t work out. Shucks everyone, us Republican leaders tried to halt it. Trust us.

They didn’t get our letter????? We need some of that new email.. What…No letter? Geeze you gotta be kidding me. Probably stuck in holiday mail traffic.

Do we get points for trying??????????????

Sarcasm 101

December 16th, 2010
5:22 pm

This is Obama’s fault. He is a Socialist liberal, just like the other dems. We cannot have a dem for a leader in Georgia. I will vote for a murderous, pedophile before I vote for a dem. Dems want to enhance education, help the unemployed and other socialist thingies at the expense of REAL tax-paying americans. And we can’t have that. If Obama weren’t the prezo, we wouldn’t have had to elect Deal. So, this is his fault. Personal responsibility, and what not. God Bless America, and no one else.

zanesmith's teeth

December 16th, 2010
5:26 pm

Tuesday, October 31, 2006Oaky Woods has Perdue in a sticky wicket
Sonny the land mogul
A 19,000-acre tract in Middle Georgia – described by experts as one of the richest nature preserves and hunting grounds in the Southeast – may shortly be filled with 17,000 homes and become a closed private city.
You can thank Gov. Sonny Perdue for making it happen – and for making himself richer.
In 2004, Perdue effectively blocked a $25 million offer from the national Nature Conservancy to buy for Georgia’s public use the Oaky Woods property in Houston County. Oaky Woods was envisioned as a permanent natural area similar to Sapelo Island on the coast and the Smithgall Woods Conservation Area in Northeast Georgia. The Oaky Woods land would have been set aside for the use of Georgia hunters.
Perdue refused to issue a letter to the conservancy to declare that the state had an interest in acquiring Oaky Woods for conservation purposes at an unspecified date, perhaps years in the future. Perdue’s refusal resulted in the conservancy withdrawing its offer to lend the Georgia chapter of the Nature Conservancy $25 million to buy the property for public use.
Instead, Perdue acquired for himself 100 acres adjacent to Oaky Woods for slightly more than $300,000, the value of which has soared to more than $750,000 in a mere 18 months.
A group of Middle Georgia developers, led by politically plugged-in Charles McGlamary, purchased the wildlife-management preserve from Weyerhaeuser Co. The Houston County Board of Education reports in official minutes that the Oaky Woods property will be used to accommodate 17,000 houses.
The investors have said they hope to turn the giant subdivision into a so-called private city in which developers are allowed to levy taxes and operate utilities in a special government entity exempted from Georgia’s sunshine laws.
Earlier this year, the Georgia Legislature scuttled a bill to permit private cities (similar to ones in Florida), but Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson has promised to reintroduce the legislation next year.
The Oaky Woods deal emerged in February 2004 when conservation-minded Weyerhaeuser announced plans to sell off huge tracts throughout Georgia and suggested the state might be interested in having Oaky Woods.
The Georgia chapter of the Nature Conservancy immediately began negotiations to secure Oaky Woods, said to be one of the largest black-bear habitats in the South. Officials of the state Natural Resources Department declared that Oaky Woods could become one of most important conservation acquisitions in Georgia’s history.
The national Nature Conservancy shared the enthusiasm and offered to put up the money for the property for Georgia – if Gov. Perdue would just assert in writing that Georgia government had an interest in buying it one of these days. Perdue said no.
The governor’s involvement in the Oaky Woods transaction is the latest revelation regarding Sonny and his land/tax deals. Other arrangements involved multimillion-dollar sales in Houston County and an acquisition near Disney World in Florida – plus a special $100,000 backdated tax break on one of the Georgia deals.
State Rep. Larry O’Neal, Perdue’s lawyer and tax adviser, counseled the governor on these transactions and shepherded passage of the tax exemption. O’Neal is chairman of the state House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax laws. In addition, O’Neal sits on the board of the Columbus Bank & Trust Co., which provided a $23 million loan for the Oaky Woods development. CB&T executives are hefty contributors to Perdue’s political kitty.
When Perdue won election in 2002, he declined to place his business interests in a private trust, as his predecessors had done. He said he needed to tend personally to his private businesses. Hardly anybody at the time dreamed those interests included becoming a real estate mogul.
Perdue is expected to be re-elected governor without much trouble on Nov. 7. No one has again mentioned the possibility of a blind trust to protect the governor in his second term from the appearance of conflicts of interest between his public duties and his private businesses. In fact, such an idea in the current atmosphere is laughable.

You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, Ga., 30160, or e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net.

Sarcasm 101

December 16th, 2010
5:27 pm

Why not cut the teachers’ pay to help this nice man prosper?! Besides, teachers are evil-doers who refuse to babysit my kids and take my rants with glee. To hell with them, and to hell with welfarey HOPE! I pay taxes and therefore I want my $$ going to good, Christian GOPers not some pansy liberal looking for a handout i.e TEACHERS and college kids :-|

Sonnys to do list

December 16th, 2010
5:34 pm

My fellow Georgians ha-ha….My work is completed,30 million for land next to mine,10 million for the college football hall of fame,unknown amount for the little league hdqs near my home,and go fish amount does not MATTER! LOVE you guys have to go to the bank and make a deposit before christmas. God Bless.

God Hates Conservatives

December 16th, 2010
5:34 pm

So what was wrong with John Monds if Deal and Barnes were so horrible? Why didn’t he win by a landslide?!?! Glad I’m outta here at the first of the year. YOU VOTERS GET WHAT YOU DESERVE.

God Hates Conservatives

December 16th, 2010
5:36 pm

CNN losing ratings to Fox News is more important to the AJC than this story. :-|

Has Murdoch bought this paper out, too????

south georgia possum

December 16th, 2010
5:38 pm

Mypeach…What do you expect the new incoming governor to do. Don’t you get it…there’s no money..the state is going broke and it’s not his fault. unfortunately he’s the one that’s gotta try and fix it. And if you recall…during the campaign he warned he was not going to make a lot of wild promises about a lot of great things he would do when elected because he knew things were gonna be tough. And for all you others…Deal had nothing to do with this Oak Oak forest or whatever the hell it is. Give the guy a chance. He’s got a lot of tough decisions to make and will have to cut some state positions because of the lack of funds. At least he’s not trying to mislead us into thinking everything’s fine. Folks…what it is is what it is…NOT REAL GOOD.

zanesmith's teeth

December 16th, 2010
5:47 pm

Possum,

The state’s tax collections have been going up for the past 6 months. Yes, things are not at the levels before the great recession, but we are on the way up. If WE THE PEOPLE don’t start demanding some accoutability out of our elected officials, they are just going to do the same things as always. “There’s no money so we have to cut areas that I don’t agree with, don’t like, didn’t support me or my cronies, etc..” WAKE UP. Kentucky is also a Republican controlled state (Mitch McConnell…etc..) they had a huge budget defecit. What did the Kentucky Republicans do instead of gutting education and other needed areas??? They increased the tobacco tax! Imagine that…raising revenue on a product that costs the state millions in associated health care costs. Education budget shortfall resolved! This was a Republican legislature that did that.
The people get the government that they deserve.

God Hates Conservatives

December 16th, 2010
5:49 pm

“Give the guy a chance.”
__________________________

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

God Hates Conservatives

December 16th, 2010
5:50 pm

Why not sell liquor on Sundays?!?!? Even Jesus took libations! Hypocrites, the whole lot of ya’s…

RSC

December 16th, 2010
6:31 pm

Wow, this would have to be the unimproved piece of real estate and in the entire state that is worth more today than it was in 2004!!

RSC

December 16th, 2010
6:31 pm

Wow, this would have to be the only unimproved piece of real estate and in the entire state that is worth more today than it was in 2004!!

ATF

December 16th, 2010
6:43 pm

At least some Republicans tried to stop it. Purdue will go down in history as the most inept governor of our time. He will be rich, so he probably won’t care. He did a lot of economic good for his buddies, but the rest of us paid for it and will keep on paying for it until the bonds are paid off.

Is there any reason to believe Deal is any different?

BitterEXdemocrackkk

December 16th, 2010
7:19 pm

WHY do states think they have to buy properties like this? its NOT a function of government!

PRIVITIZE IT!!!

Jason

December 16th, 2010
7:21 pm

In a down real estate, market where the value of all taxpayers homes have gone down, why are we considering buying a piece of real estate where Oaky Woods Properties will make a $13,000,000 profit. How many of the senators own a piece of Oaky Woods Properties

Vince

December 16th, 2010
7:25 pm

We have more than enough state workers anyway. Half of you lazy asses should be terminated. THERE is where the problem lies!

WestOfAthens

December 16th, 2010
7:27 pm

According to common math perception, if the panel approved a “cost per acre” of $2,874, how in the world does the value skyrocket 100 fold?

Something is wrong with this state and it’s decision makers, i seem to find myself being ashamed to brag upon the great State of Georgia oh so many times in the past….

Billy

December 16th, 2010
7:28 pm

So when will all of you Georgia Republicans stop voting these crooks into office. Just look at the nation as a whole, the rich Republicans are fleecing the public. Hey for that matter the rich period. Republican or Democrat. Silly voters getting what they deserve.

Too naive

December 16th, 2010
7:29 pm

Who’s staff is Will on? The only people who are in line to PROFIT from this classic insider deal are politicians. How obtuse to you have to be to believe this deal is on the up and up? The only people who would defend this are people on the payrolls of the offenders or have personal relationships with the crooked politicians involved. Too many rednecks run this state and too many rednecks keep voting in fat cat politicians that just keep getting richer as time goes by. How did Purdue more than double his net worth while in office at a time when everyone else in the country lost a third to half of their life savings? I’ll tell you, cuz he cheats. Just like all his good ol boy buddies. And their laughing at you trailer park GOPers that keep voting for them.

pn

December 16th, 2010
7:30 pm

Don’t forget the similar hanky-panky re: Jekyll Island State Park. A 50 million dollar bond issue to tear down the perfectly serviceable convention center and build a new one. Many if not most of the conventions going to Jekyll over the past few decades were state or local government (or church) sponsored. If the Republicans succeed in completely gutting state government agencies, and their employees, which seems to be their ultimate goal, who will be left to attend conventions on Jekyll and pay for high-priced hotel rooms next to that nice brown water?
How far would that $50 million go to keep teachers and forestry firefighters from being furloughed and laid off?

DaveDawg

December 16th, 2010
7:32 pm

I agree with the comment about the AJC. Their coverage of the icy roads was as thin as the ice itself. A blog with a sentence-or-two entry every few hours? Really, that’s it? The smaller papers ran circles around this media giant. But the AJC can tell us all about the Real Housewives of Atlanta, Gucci Mane, Maria Carey and all the other tabloid trash.

retireds

December 16th, 2010
7:32 pm

Republicans, the family values group, at its best. The voters have been duped.

Ima Crook Too

December 16th, 2010
7:43 pm

Ok, the Nature Conservancy tells our crooked Guv that they will BUY the property and save it for us until the state can pay for it. Our crooked Guv says “no way’ ,Ga can’t afford it. Then 4 of our crooked Guvs political hack cronies buy it and the bottom falls out of the real estate market, esp vacant land. Suddenly our crooked Guv says “oh, we can afford it” AT DOUBLE WHAT THE POLITICAL HACK CROOKED CRONIE FRIENDS PAID FOR IT!!! Now, tell me if that is’nt a wholesale scam towards the taxpayers of Georgia!!!!

I want to join a citizen lawsuit now against the crooks!!!! I want to see them go to jail!!!!

hoping not to get fired

December 16th, 2010
7:49 pm

So let me get this straight…Governor elect Deal stands in front of 700 business leaders today and says we are going to have to cut the 104,000 person state work force because we are broke but hey we are going to buy 10000 acres of land for 29 million dollars. Well if we are cutting workforce who will patrol the new acreage youu got there governor elect? Someone needs to wake up and realize there is some sketchy politics going on with the old going out and the new coming in. Maybe the Inspector General can take a quick look at this.

Sam the Sham

December 16th, 2010
7:53 pm

It seems that every governor that gets elected in Illinois winds up under indictment, but in Georgia it seems that our governors are far to smart for the fed’s to catch.

Bob McElwee

December 16th, 2010
8:00 pm

The people are tired of the thieves that we have in office it is time to rise and start hanging people like Perdue-Deal-Barnes all from the highest trees and take our country back.I have watched and voted for 35 years and nothing changes except who is stealing from the people.

Robert

December 16th, 2010
8:02 pm

You call sending a letter over DURING a meeting as having “fought” the transaction? I can’t stop laughing at whatever editor wrote that.

RATM

December 16th, 2010
8:12 pm

It won’t end until we take it back from these fools.

Sonny should run in Gwinnett

December 16th, 2010
8:18 pm

Good ole Sonny would fit right in over here with Gwinnett County “leadership” (believe me, I coughing something up as I use that word with Gwinnett)–hey, he could even show our bunch a thing or two. Seems some of ours get indicted for their shady land deals. Not Sonny though, he even managed to keep it under wraps until he was on his way out. He’s a man that does corruption right!!!

Embarrassed In Houston

December 16th, 2010
8:24 pm

I am so ashamed of Sonny and what he has done while in office. I once had a great deal of respect for him, before he raped K-12 education and cheated the tax payers for his own personal gain. His dear mother who was a fantastic public school teacher would not be very proud of her son now. He is a crook and an embarrassement to all who used to think he was someone we could trust.

eatmotacos

December 16th, 2010
8:25 pm

By the act of electing the last two governors, the majority of voters in Georgia have proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they aren’t smart enough to participate in a democracy. For their own good, they should voluntarily abstain from voting in future elections.

Hmmmmmmm

December 16th, 2010
8:29 pm

Sonny needs to go to JAIL, along with every other politician that had a hand in this JOKE!

td

December 16th, 2010
8:30 pm

RSC

December 16th, 2010
6:31 pm
Wow, this would have to be the unimproved piece of real estate and in the entire state that is worth more today than it was in 2004!!

I can guarantee you that I know of two pieces of property that are up for sale right now that are worth more than their 2004 assessed value.

Hmmmmmmm

December 16th, 2010
8:34 pm

But we will still have idiots argue about which party is WORSE…… Let me give you a clue eatmotacos, BOTH parties are CRIMINAL. People take your heads out of your A$$es and take your government back!

L Singleton

December 16th, 2010
8:34 pm

Once Dem always a Dem … Once a Republican always a Democrat … Until we have term limits … this continues until the Great Recession becomes the Great Revolt … and from certain individuals, I can see armed revolt against our government … remember … you read my op ed opinion here first … I’m just sayin :/

Grady Gram no more

December 16th, 2010
8:37 pm

They do it, and will continue to do it, because they can. We the people cannot stop them. They think they are so above it all, and can do whatever they please. And what can we the people do? Fuss all we want…they laugh at us, all the way to the bank.

Lulu

December 16th, 2010
8:39 pm

To be as crude as those who approved this purchase, smells like PUKE to me. Sorry but that’s the truth! Can the taxpayers file a class action lawsuit against such brazen incompetence and corruption?
Proud to be an INDEPENDENT

Good Cop Bad Cop

December 16th, 2010
8:41 pm

Dems and Republicans play GOOD COP BAD COP but somehow they all end up benefitting. They yell and scream at each other on TV and in the newspapers then run off to the country club to smoke cigars and drink brandy together. We’re all sheep. Our system is nebulous to say the least. If you think your side is RIGHT, you’re wrong. Both sides constantly throwing off the scent of the real issues. Lawyers and Judges tell you to take it up with your legislatures but the folks we vote in are either like Glenn Richardson or Sen Larry Craig of MN. This country and state are upside down. Look at the quality of the individuals we’ve recently elected President and Governor. That’s what you’re left with…….the bottom of the barrell.