Georgia’s Governor Purdue is implicated in a land scandal where apparently he “flipped” land in 2006 for a substantial profit that was located adjacent to the Oaky Woods land development project. The Nature Conservancy tried to buy the land at less than market value with a government-issued restriction on its use that would have made it useless to developers. The Governor refused to pave the way for the deal proposed by The Nature Conservancy. Perhaps he wondered why The Nature Conservancy should be the sole entity to profit from the government’s power to control land use. The land was then sold to developers instead at a much higher price; apparently about three times what The Nature Conservancy was trying to negotiate. The Governor made a profit of more than $450,000 on land that he owned for a mere 18 months.
We all recognize the value of setting aside natural lands for preservation. But the strategy commonly employed The Nature Conservancy employs to acquire land at less than fair market value hurts the land owners, the local community and ultimately the state’s taxpayers. The practice has been hugely successful in helping The Nature Conservancy pile up billions in tax-free profits on land deals throughout the nation. Local taxpayers pay the price as this land is immediately removed from the community’s tax base that is used as the primary source of funding for schools and roads. To add insult to injury, this land is often re-sold back to the state to be used as a park at substantial profit for The Nature Conservancy. While this is not an excuse for the Governor's behavior, the TNC actions to secure profits in land acquisition deals are no more acceptable than flipping land by an investor with inside control.