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Outdoor Life - Successful land development 101 is a course in frustration
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Back during the land boom of ’04, I came up with one of my bright ideas. I’d heard of guys who were making tons of money in land development and I decided to take my rightful place among those successful entrepreneurs. Like any good businessman, I started off with a reasonable mission statement. “It is my intention to rake in enough money to retire and just live off the fat of the land.” That sounded pretty good so I proceeded forward and put together a business model.
    I first went to the Wharton School of Business handbook and looked up the definition of land development, which seemed logical since I had no idea how to get going. It was pretty basic stuff. Find a desirable piece of property and improve it so that others will pay through the nose to buy it. All you have to do then is to look for ways to hide the obscene profits from the IRS. 
    Now that I had the gist of it, I made a list of characteristics that the land should have. I also listed some improvements that should be made in order to make it so desirable that prospective buyers would kill for it.
    At the top of my list was location, location, location. Any good real estate guru will tell you that’s the most essential ingredient for selling property. With that in mind, I searched and found a place in Swords, Ga.  Swords is close to I-20 and is a suburb of “The Real Buckhead” in Morgan County. I liked the idea of being close to a metropolitan area but not right in the middle of it. The population density can reach as high as more than 500 people per square mile on July 4 when the fireworks display is going on but the traffic is not typically burdensome. The only time there’s a tie-up is when the train stops at the crossing for extended periods.
    Next, I looked for land that exuded privacy. I reasoned that people enjoy property where there’s fresh air and room to ramble. The acid test for me on privacy is that one be able to walk around in the back yard in one’s underwear without fear of being spotted by nosy neighbors. Furthermore, one should be able to answer the call of nature without fear of 911 calls to the local law enforcement office. I believe in being thorough so I personally checked these things out myself without incident and was satisfied that the place had plenty of privacy.
    I think it’s also important that a desirable piece of land have nice hardwood trees, ponds or creeks and potential for growing grass. Again, my selection was right on target and so I then proceeded with looking at making some necessary improvements.
    Of course, there needs to be a house or houses on the property but I thought it also important to add some real character to the place. Animals, both wild and domesticated, are important to complete the lifestyle so I added a chicken coop and dog pen. I briefly considered hogs but thought that might be a tad too much for some segments of the market. I added a row of tomatoes, and planted a nice yard and some beautiful shrubbery all around the house. The picture was complete.  Deer, turkey, raccoons and possums were already in place.
    I also must admit that there were some things that I didn’t consider in my business model. In order to keep all this beauty and privacy intact, I found it was necessary to own and frequently use a lawn mower, a weed-eater, a chain saw, a hedge trimmer, a back-pack sprayer (with appropriate amounts of weed killers for lawn, garden and pond problems), a construction-grade set of tools for fixing stuff that’s broken, excessive amounts of dog and chicken feed, miles of garden hose for watering purposes and a partridge in a pear tree if you get my drift.
    Oh, and you have to have the time to take care of all that stuff.
    By the time everything was in readiness, the land development boom went bust. Now I’m paying taxes, making payments, cutting grass, hauling dead limbs, feeding livestock and trimming shrubs all while walking around in my underwear and going to the bathroom in the yard. I’m kind of getting the impression that privacy thing is way overrated.
    I’m going to have to go now. I just discovered a new species of wild animal lives here. The armadillos have invaded and my yard and shrubs are destroyed so I’m going hunting. That reminds me, don’t forget to add a well-oiled shotgun to your list of necessary items when you take on the fortunes and misfortunes of land development.

    Alvin Richardson may be reached at