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Perdue fails to disclose ’04 purchase of land

Oaky Woods development raises value of Perdue’s adjoining land

    ATLANTA — Gov. Sonny Perdue failed to disclose his 2004 purchase of more than 100 acres in Houston County, which ultimately masked an apparent conflict of interest when the state decided not to purchase an adjacent wildlife preserve, a newspaper reported on Saturday.
    The 20,000-acre Oaky Woods preserve was eventually sold to a group of local developers who are planning to place thousands of homes there
    Perdue’s property next door has skyrocketed in value as a result of the new development, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The assessed value of Perdue’s land has more than doubled to $750,100 since Oaky Woods was sold, the newspaper said.
    Perdue said in a statement that he was ‘‘sorely disappointed’’ that the state was unable to acquire Oaky Woods, noting that it provided him his first introduction to ‘‘the majesty of the outdoors.’’
    ‘‘I was and continue to be in favor of the state acquiring Oaky Woods ad preserving it in trust for future generations of Georgians,’’ Perdue said. He said the sale of the property came at a time of ‘‘fiscal crisis’’ for the state.
    In February 2004, Weyerhaeuser Co., the paper and timber giant, announced it was selling more than 300,000 acres in Georgia, including Oaky Woods.
    State officials explored purchasing the land but ultimately determined that the $30 million price tag was too high given the state’s budget constraints.
    The Nature Conservancy told the state it would bid $26 million for Oaky Woods if the state agreed to buy the land back from the preservation group at a future date. The state turned down that offer in May 2004, worried about where they would find the funds to finance the purchase down the road.
    A group of Houston County developers acquired the property later that year for $32.1 million. In the pipeline for the area is a planned community of town centers, commercial space and industrial sites. Up to 35,000 new homes could be built on the property over the next 25 years, according to Scott Free, one of the owners of Oaky Woods Properties, which now owns the land.
    Perdue’s 101 acres in Houston County were transferred to his name in May 2004. But he apparently bought the property 10 months earlier using a limited liability company named Maryson. Perdue paid the tax bill on the land in 2003 after it was acquired by Maryson, according to Houston County tax records.
    Perdue did not disclose the land or any interest in Maryson on his financial disclosure forms in 2003 and 2004 as required by state law. The 101-acre tract of land Perdue purchased in Houston County is next to his longtime home there.
    The in-state purchase came seven months before Perdue spent $2 million to purchase about 20 acres of land in Florida just miles from Disney World in Osceola County.

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