Oaky Woods at double the price in a down market

The Political Insider blog is on hiatus until the new year.

Here’s something to ask yourself today: Is your house, and the land it sits on, worth twice as much today as it was in 2004? Probably not.

In fact, odds are that your little slice of heaven is worth a good deal less. No matter what your mortgage says.

But the real estate market can be a tricky thing.

On Wednesday, the Board of Natural Resources agreed to pay $28.7 million for 10,015 acres of Oaky Woods wilderness in middle Georgia. Six years ago, the price was roughly the same — for the entire 20,000-acre tract.

By passing on the property in 2004, over the protests of environmentalists, the state allowed the pristine black bear habitat to pass into the hands of Houston County developers — whose plans to build a private city did wonders for local land prices.

The assessed value of 101 acres adjacent to the Oaky Woods property, purchased by Gov. Sonny Perdue a year or so earlier, more than doubled to $750,100.

Oops. Sorry. I forgot to mention Perdue’s interest in the transaction. Just like the governor forgot to mention it in 2004. The same governor who appoints Department of Natural Resources board members.

The private plans for Oaky Woods went bust with the housing market. But while your home or your neighbor’s home may have gone to the courthouse steps for a sheriff’s auction, the owners of Oaky Woods Properties LLC again proved themselves as lucky as cats in a creamery.

With the DNR purchase, which still requires one more vote of approval from a State Properties Commission chaired by Perdue, the developers will be able to recoup most of the $32 million investment they made six years ago — and still hold onto half their purchase.

Unlike you or me, some people are simply recession-proof. They are too big to fail.

Tree-huggers, perhaps the most beleaguered and outgunned interest group in state politics, have been loath to criticize the transaction, out of fear that a rare and valuable half-victory will — poof! — vanish from sight.

Though she didn’t participate in the final 11-6 vote, even Jenny Lynn Bradley, chairman of the DNR board, expressed qualms. “It’s a good acquisition for this state,” she said. “I still personally think the property is too high. I think the state is paying too much money for it.”

A day earlier, a preliminary discussion of the Oaky Woods purchase by the DNR board was attended by Ray Boyd, the real estate executive and former candidate for governor.

Boyd has embarked on a solitary, perhaps quixotic campaign against sleaziness in the state Capitol. In front of the DNR board, he used the “C” word, which got a rise out of board member Dwight Davis.

“As far as I know there’s absolutely no evidence that there’s any corruption at all,” Davis said. “I think there are some greedy landowners involved in this. And people are taking advantage of a situation. Having seen so many times here where generous citizens have stepped forward and donated land or taken reductions, this really stands out as a bad example.”

It is a comfort to know that we are not burdened with corruption — only with greed and sharp dealing.

Because there is a myth in politics that says all past sins are washed away by large, watershed elections. Some victors assume that landslides are a sign that voters have carefully examined a candidate’s personal conduct and offered their approval.

It is an egocentric philosophy that leads to overreaching. Ask Jack Abramoff, whose commonplace wheeling-dealing in Washington — with Ralph Reed and others — was merely cagey one day. And a series of felonies the next.

There is significance in the fact that the Oaky Woods fiasco will be contained within the Perdue tenure. One suspects that Gov.-elect Nathan Deal put out word that he wants no part of the issue.

This may be a sign that Deal understands what voters did and didn’t say in November. Or that the governor-elect recognizes that he will quickly have his own fish to fry.

Over the past few days, Deal has passed out lists of those who will head up his administration — a mix of new names and holdovers.

One position the governor-elect has not touched — not yet — is the post now held by state Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham.

During a congressional investigation into allegations that Deal improperly used his office to protect his auto salvage business, Graham gave detailed descriptions of his meetings with Deal to federal investigators, and was later subpoenaed by a grand jury.

Deal isn’t saying whether or not he has asked for Graham’s resignation. Graham isn’t saying anything.

And the rest of us are just watching.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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104 comments Add your comment

professional skeptic

December 8th, 2010
6:34 pm

The great State of Georgia is is going have to “make tough choices” and slash education again in the upcoming year…

But look! We ran our hands up under the couch cushions and found $30 million we can use to line the pockets of our outgoing fat cat Governor and his developer cronies!

Please. Another day, another shady land Deal paid for by Georgia taxpayers. Wealth redistribution is A-OK, as long as the wealth is extracted from the masses and funneled upwards to pad the bank accounts of the corrupt political elite, right?

Get ready for more of the same, Georgia, for another four years. It’s what you voted for.


December 8th, 2010
6:45 pm

Ethics panels, boards or any type of ‘committee’ made up by politicians never find anything wrong unless it is 20 years too late or the person is dead.


December 8th, 2010
7:14 pm

Bart Graham informed the staff at the Department of Revenue today that Deal would not keep him on as Revenue Commissioner.


December 8th, 2010
7:16 pm

Do any of our current “public servants” have a gag response? Is there anyone left with ethics–or even a conscience? Is there no limit to what our politicians can get away with? Things have gotten so our of hand that most of the political leadership of this state for the past few years do not even make much effort to cover their tracks. Uncontrolled greed and self-dealing have become the rule rather than the exception. It’s every man for himself and his cronies and devil take the hindmost.

Mad As Hell

December 8th, 2010
7:18 pm

Sonny Perdue and his greedy cronies should be tarred and feathered. We are seeing what Sonny was really all about in these last days as Governor and it ain’t a pretty picture. The man is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, but a greedy little phony fraud carrying a Bible around. May he some day roast in Hell.


December 8th, 2010
7:21 pm

I am SICK of the corruption these “family values” folks have continued and refined to an art form.


December 8th, 2010
7:46 pm

This is being done in broad daylight. No fear of repercussions. No shame in the obvious theft of taxpayer money. Those involved are above the rest, in their own little privileged world.

In a show of professional courtesy our Governor elect, career politician-corrupt-bankrupt Nathan Deal turns a blind eye.

Of course the Tea Party is totally deaf when it comes to this kind of non-stop non-sense in Republican Georgia..

The public endorses it every couple years.

What we have here is a classic case of blind, deaf and dumb.

Ghetto Grandpa

December 8th, 2010
7:49 pm

I’m pretty sure we can blame this on Roy Barnes and the democrats. That worked great during the election and it surely will work again here.

Now watch the right-wingers accuse Jim Galloway for having an anti-GOP bias for even reporting on this issue.


December 8th, 2010
7:51 pm

Sonny’s deals will seem pale to what Deal is going to do after he takes office.

The voters in Ga have now voted for a corrupt governor elect and we will have at least four more years of shady deals to increase Deal and his friends income. The only difference is that Nathan at least tries to cover his deals up by making statements like “accounting error” “CPA made mistake on my income tax”.

Us vs Us

December 8th, 2010
8:03 pm

If the TPparty wants any respect whatsoever they should be surrounding the capitol demanding that this deal be killed. *crickets*


December 8th, 2010
8:12 pm

i’m in hopes that the next committee thats looks at this will do the right thing……………CANCEL THE TRANSACTION…………… the people involved
Ayers, Free, Williams and McGlamery are all scum bags Why not bail out the other developers? Everybody elses land value dropped drastically except these four!!! They are all laughing at the State right now. Offer them what they paid for the land, less their taxes, insurance and interest.. They made a bad business decision and the tax payers shouldn’t bail them out. Remeber Mr Ayers arrogant stance at $14000 per acre? In fact 2 of the scum bags don’t have the money to pay their share…..leaving Ayers and Williams having to come up with another 15 million…………..they will take the $1600 per acre offer in a heart beat…………….remember there are no other bidders!!!! If they don’t take it they will be eaten up with interest and taxes!!!! Sonny Perdues finger prints are all over this!!!! And Governor elect Deal is already talking about cuts in education!!! We already have Go fish, so Perdues niece can have a job………and Perdue has his cousin on the Port Authority board. ready and waiting for some more unethical deals!!! Remember board, these scum bags are gasping with relief…………..make them choke on their bad business deals like everybody else……..And Sonny, stay in Atlanta, you’re a disgrace to Bonaire

Mad As Hell

December 8th, 2010
8:12 pm

When does the State Properties Commission meet and where? Let’s demand to be heard!! I hope Ray Boyd shows up and personally gives Sonny Perdue hell!! Sonny is the Chair of the State Properties Commission and he should recuse himself from voting on this deal because he has a HUGE conflict of interest.


December 8th, 2010
8:14 pm

where are those champions of repubs td and last man…..with some insightful comment?

Port O'John

December 8th, 2010
8:25 pm

Y’all got the Tea Party wrong — they are very concerned about wasteful spending and public corruption, provided the politician is a Democrat. If you want the Tea Party to care about this you need to tell them that this deal will benefit Roy Barnes, Kasim Reed and Obama — then they’ll come out and protest.

professional skeptic

December 8th, 2010
8:40 pm

December 8th, 2010
8:14 pm

khc: No need for td to respond. He’s on record claiming he doesn’t care whether a politician engages in egregious acts of self-dealing, as long as the politician in question claims he’s for “smaller government” and has the letter “R” after his name.

Again, I say: Georgia, this is what you voted for.


Good ole boy

December 8th, 2010
8:55 pm

I’m local………Sonny and his 4 buddies are nothing but dirt bags, a couple reality snakes, a slum lord, and a business owner that made his money on local people………

We begged to get the land back, and they wanted 5 times what they paid, housing market went in the crapper and offer it at twice what they paid……..

I guess there is nothing we can do, but these clowns will be labeled for a long time……

the original and still the best John Galt

December 8th, 2010
8:57 pm

No way Black Bart was ever going to stay in the Deal administration after the stunts he pulled. Good riddance.


December 8th, 2010
9:07 pm

Yeah Obama freezes federal pay,and Georgia buys inflated priced land.


December 8th, 2010
9:13 pm

But somehow Oaky Woods in it’s entirety must be saved from the clutches of these miserable politicians and their greedy cronies.It an incredibly beautiful wilderness, and part of the heritage of generations of Middle Georgians. It is a precious, rare and irreplaceable. Our grandchildren deserve to hunt, fish, kayak and birdwatch on the entire tract–as it was before it became the spoil of these corrupt self-serving scoundrels.

Port O'John

December 8th, 2010
9:24 pm

We can always soak metro Atlanta taxpayers to pay for it — they already pay for everything else in rural Georgia, might as well have them pick up the tab for this.

Mad As Hell

December 8th, 2010
9:25 pm

Nathan Deal could stop this dead in its tracks if he wanted to. Casey Cagle and Tommy Irvin and David Ralston all serve on the State Properties Commission. Are they all in on this shady transaction?


December 8th, 2010
9:28 pm


December 8th, 2010
7:46 pm

This is being done in broad daylight. No fear of repercussions. No shame in the obvious theft of taxpayer money. Those involved are above the rest, in their own little privileged world

It’s not surprising. Look at the baggage some of these people carry and still they are elected.


December 8th, 2010
9:32 pm

I smell a dead fish, this would make a good 60 minutes article, with education cuts , no jobe with real estate prices bringing nothing, Sonny Perdue and his croonies are criminals no doubt!


December 8th, 2010
9:35 pm

The entire tract should be sold to the state at the “investors’” cost plus 10% and dedicated as a state park. That is profit enough for Sonny’s pals in this real estate market. And this immensely gorgeous bottom land saved for generations to come.

D. M. Mullis

December 9th, 2010
1:51 am

This is a travesty our State leaders are even considering such a shady deal. Before this board, that I can’t find anything about, decides to rubber stamp without any taxpayer oversight, this transaction, they need to stop and think for a minute what this will look like in a court of law. Outside of Houston County, of course. I have been following this from it’s beginning when Weyerhouser Timber initially offfered it for sale. The gravy is being saved by the investors and the problem areas, i.e. endangered species, wetlands, EPA oversights, etc. etc. are being flim-flammed to the State of Georgia in spite of the dastardly deal to taxpayers. They will be issuing bonds for 20 years to pay for this while all state agencies are almost grinding to a halt for lack of operating money. I’m sure the poor furloughed teachers will love this deal.

Someone needs to stop the thieves

December 9th, 2010
6:04 am

We finally took some action in Gwinnett concerning this theft. But Fulton BOE only makes stinky deals, just like this one. Cobb the same way. These people just take the money because they run the show. Someone needs to go to jail.


December 9th, 2010
7:01 am

Nathan will stop these shady transactions on behalf of Sonny. From now on , only Nathan and his cronies will benefit.

WE have lost our way

December 9th, 2010
7:26 am

We,including myself complain about our State Government on blogs or in passing conversations with people. When will we make a stand and take back our government before it is to late for us, our children and grandchildren. Please look at the past years in our legislature,what a disgrace.Corruption,Paybacks for favors-Physical and Fiscal, good ole boy politics! To hell with what party you belong to or support,we need to tar and feather any legislator who supports this type of action,this includes good Ole Sonny.WE all talk,but nothing is ever done to correct the problem.


December 9th, 2010
8:05 am

This will only continue because Georgians are convinced that one party should have all the power, and that party believes they have a mandate to do whatever they please.


December 9th, 2010
8:08 am

This land transaction will look puny when Sonny begins to make his profits from the Savannah port business he has already arranged. If there ever was a case of mis-use of public office for personal gain, Sonny seems to be at top of the heap. But now with another Deal-maker coming into the governor’s mansion for 4 free years of living at taxpayer expense, Sonny’s record is probably going to be broken.


December 9th, 2010
8:34 am

This thing has been green-lighted so much it ought to be calle the “Oaky-doky Woods.” One wonders whether Mr. Sonny will have the ‘nads to recuse himself from the final vote (not that it would matter to the outcome – these folks have already been bought and paid for. Funny how the GOPpers used to rail about this kind of thing… of course, that was before they became the majority party. “No! Wait! It’s our turn at the trough… We’ll get to reform after I get mine…”

Kathleen Neighbor

December 9th, 2010
8:36 am

My family has had personal dealings with Charles Ayers. We used to own a small acreage with a dove field next door to his much larger acreage in Kathleen. During dove season one year he drove onto our field where were legally hunting dove on our land and demanded that we stop since he felt it was interfering with his own dove shoot next door. This wasn’t a friendly request nor was there an offer to compromise somehow. Nope. Simply “Y’all need to stop hunting dove so I can hunt dove.”
He actually expected us to comply, too. So I can personally vouch that this man is every bit as arrogant as the reports indicate. The term “entitlement mentality” gets thrown around a lot — but I guess it’s only a bad thing if you don’t own tens of thousands of acres of land and can get your check from the government in one giant lump sum instead of monthly.


December 9th, 2010
8:40 am

khc and professional skeptic

You’re both right on the mark when it comes to td and Last Man Standing. They’re “shills for the house.” They’ll try to justify this kind of conduct by claiming Roy Barnes probably had something to do with it.

An American Patriot

December 9th, 2010
8:50 am

Man, we’re too easy……what we should do is “call these scamsters Bluff”….tell ‘em either all of the acres at the already agreed on price of $28M or go sell it to some other sucker. I’d like for the State of Georgia to save this precious acreage too, but since “Funny Sonny” is in the thick of things, it’ll probably be approved…..Corruption abounds in our state from the top (Purdue) on down. I would suggest that Governor Elect Nathan Deal jump into the fray and say…..”Hey, wait a minute, that’s not a good deal for our state…..let’s negotiate some more”…….that would get him more good press than anything he could do right now.

hunting man

December 9th, 2010
8:51 am

Sonny is a crook we don’t need this land for hunting, just like we didn’t need that Fish for Ga complex that was built in Houston County at about 25 million tax payer charge, and another scam land deal, no jobs guess Sonny wants us to fish and hunt for food, live offf the land lol.

El Kabong

December 9th, 2010
9:13 am

For what it is worth I have emailed Gov Perdue, the state Board of Nat Resources and my rep James Mills expressing my outrage at this latest violation of the taxpayer. Very telling that even Nathan Deal won’t have anything to do with this shenanigan.

Just another example of gov, both Fed and state, being led by two morally bankrupt parties into bankruptcy.


December 9th, 2010
9:34 am

This sucks….GA getting screwed again. That fat, milk toast, do nothing creep can’t get out of office fast enough for me!


December 9th, 2010
10:22 am

American Patriot – he’s probably getting something out of it too, Deal is already a proven corrupt scumbag, nothing we can do now since the majority of this state is retarded.


December 9th, 2010
10:32 am

Regardless of your stance on the economics and politics of the Oaky Woods transaction, this is great news for the outdoors-men and -women of Georgia.

Mustufa Salehbhai

December 9th, 2010
10:45 am

The meeting is scheduled for 10:00 AM, December 13, 2010 and is open to the public. The agenda and notice are located at http://gspc.georgia.gov/00/article/0,2086,66811040_66822231_77853095,00.html. Please make your voice heard. Cut corporate taxes; decrease educational expenditures dramatically; purchase property in Middle Ga. without competitive budding for $30,000,000 where there is a clear conflict of interest. That’s an agenda we all can support.

Beverly Lougher

December 9th, 2010
10:53 am

The Oaky Woods land is a treasure and needs to be preserved. The state had a chance to get this land and the surrounding area in 2004 and the Nature Conservancy stepped up and tried to help. Sonny stopped the purchase and we found out later that he owned adjacent land. How can that not be corruption? This makes me so bloody angry. Now we are thinking of buying a smaller tract and paying top dollar to the developers who bought this land for half the price they want to sell if for now. These people are devoid of any morals and know that they can blackmail the conservationists with the treat of destroying this area that cannot be replaced. The citizens of Georgia who care about our last pristine natural areas hold Charles Ayer, Scott Free, Charlie McGlamry, Art Williams, Jr. and Sonny Purdue in total contempt but, guess what, we know they don’t care what we think as long as they get their money. Shame on them.


December 9th, 2010
11:21 am

Excellent column. AJC needs to do an investigative piece on exactly who Ayer, Free, MCGlamry, and Williams are. This deal really stinks and these greedy people need to be exposed as they laugh all the way to the bank at taxpayers’ expense.


December 9th, 2010
11:23 am

Restart negotiations and come up with a reasonable current appraisal by a panel of neutral appraisers based on current real estate market values–not some pie-in-the sky figure hatched to enrich the sellers and prevent them from having to take a loss on their “investment.”
Right now this whole affair has the overwhelming appearance of impropriety– a sweetheart deal based on political connections and backroom deal making–while holding hostage the people who cherish Oaky Woods and want to protect this beautiful and irreplaceable tract of land for the benefit of their children and grandchildren and all the generations to come.


December 9th, 2010
11:46 am

Sonny is going to make yet another bundle off the state? I am SHOCKED…SHOCKED I say.


December 9th, 2010
11:48 am

Waiting to hear from the Tea Party on this


December 9th, 2010
11:54 am

Okey Woods is a treasure but let’s call the developers’ bluff. Go ahead. Build houses on it. Then see who will buy it, in this market.

Folks we need to do recalls on ALL these folks immediately.

Marlboro Man

December 9th, 2010
12:07 pm

Maybe Deal got the land from George’s buddies, honor among theives.

lady dog

December 9th, 2010
12:09 pm

Folks this happened in Paulding County, and a local family made a killing, got a new airport, industrial park, and plenty of land to develop another city. Just I was not the one with the money or the plans. Gosh, should have done that and made money…Happens everyday.

Marlboro Man

December 9th, 2010
12:10 pm

When Robins AFB base closes, there will be people living in the woods for sure.


December 9th, 2010
12:31 pm