The AJC has done a terrific series of reports about disheartening land purchases by Gwinnett County schools. The investigation has revealed instances where Gwinnett taxpayers paid developers far more for the property than the developers paid months or even days before.
In a four-month investigation, the AJC examined 10 land deals in which developers bought property and then sold it to the school district at much higher prices.
In response to the AJC series, the school district launched its own investigation into its land purchases, which is expected to be completed soon. District Attorney Danny Porter has said he’s considering convening a special grand jury to review the transactions.
According to the AJC’s Tim Eberly:
The district bought the 26 acres from developer and former state Rep. Keith Breedlove’s company in 2006 for $105,000 per acre — the same land that Breedlove had acquired from several property owners for about $65,000 per acre, property records show.
“That’s pretty extreme,” said Steve Palm, president of Marietta-based research firm SmartNumbers, which analyzes and forecasts real estate trends in metro Atlanta. “Do you think something should go up [that much] in seven months? No.”
Jim Steele, the school district official in charge of land purchases, said last week that the district, and taxpayers, got a good deal on the property.
“We bought a great school site in the exact location where it is needed and for a price less than the appraised fair market value,” he wrote in an email to the AJC.
“You can say that we paid $1 million more for land than Breedlove paid for it 7 months earlier, but this is misleading. What he paid for the land includes not only the price he gave the former owners but money and time he invested prior to his closing on the land and our acquiring it.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog