Posted by: The Last Liberal Gwinnettian | June 5, 2009

Gwinnett’s Shopping Spree

Apparently, despite the economic downturn, the proposed property tax hike, and the $33 million in budget cuts this year, Gwinnett has money to burn on a land-buying spree.

Last month, the county purchased a 33 acre tract of land near Lawrenceville for $2.3 million. The county’s appraiser said the land was worth less than half that amount. Outside appraisals were all over the map, ranging from the $33,104 per acre appraisal of the county’s appraiser to the $73,000 per acre quote from the appraiser representing the contract purchaser. Instead of further investigating the possible reasons for such discrepancies, or perhaps investigating the true value of the land, the county commissioners voted 3-1 to purchase the land.

If I wanted to purchase an i-pod, and I asked three tech-savvy people to tell me how much they think I should pay for such a gadget, and I received three vastly different answers, not only would I not immediately run out to buy an i-pod, but I would also not pay over twice what the lowest quoted price was. That would be stupid, right?

Now, I could understand paying so much money for the land if it was really important that the county own that particular tract. Perhaps if it bordered a school that desperately needed to be expanded, or if it ran alongside a road that really needed to be wider, then I could see paying well over sticker price for the land. But, according to the AJC, the site is to be used as an “adjunct” to an as yet undeveloped park. (By the way, in case you’re unaware of what the purpose of an “adjunct” to a park might be, the very definition of the word adjunct is “something added to another thing but NOT ESSENTIAL to it.”) Goody, we just blew over $2 million on more useless land.

But it gets better.

Now, less than a month later, the Gwinnett DA has put his foot down over yet another stupid land deal. The county is now considering the purchase of 16 acres of land near McGinnis Ferry Road east of Suwannee, which it wants to purchase for $5.2 million. Gwinnett County DA Danny Porter had this to say about the proposed deal:

Frankly, it is with a great deal of shock that I read this agenda item particularly with what I know about the ownership of the property and in this time of budgetary distress.

The property in question has been the subject of several lawsuits and a condemnation action by the county. The plan for these acres is to MAYBE use them for a ramp project off I-85.

Judging by this article in the AJC, and the vagueness of many of Porter’s comments, there seems to be even more rotten about this deal than we know. However, even if the deal is completely clean and there is no monkey business involved (doubtful, given the players), I still have to ask why our county is on such a land-grabbing spree? Do we really NEED this land? No. In fact, the county hasn’t even fully decided what it wants it for.

Why, in an age when property values are plummeting, the budget is strained, and the economy is barely slogging along, is Gwinnett County recklessly and irresponsibly spending tax-payer dollars on useless (and, evidently, questionable) land deals?



  1. Come on ! Porter’s never going to prosecute Bannister. Its my opinion that he leaked the story about the email he sent Bannister to get some good headlines. Never thinking that the good citizens of Gwinnett can think for themselves. If he thought that “THAT” land deal was shady then many of the ones that already went through were too. Warning Bannister by email is not the way a DA should run an investigation. If it looks shady then investigate ,prosecute ,and see if you can get some of our money back. Maybe then the Police & Fire guys won’t have to get laid off. A safer Gwinnett. That may be his job.

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