What land conservationists recently called "a good day for conservation," just went bad.
Bobby Davenport, the Lula Lake Land Trust development officer and agent for the Georgia Land Trust, learned Thursday that he'll soon be getting his $146,000 back for the 266 acres he purchased in a Dade County, Ga., tax auction early this month.
Davenport had picked up 56 parcels of what had once been part of a failed development known as the Preserve in Rising Fawn. The parcels, nestled in a curve of Lookout Mountain known as Johnsons Crook, once were valued at $250,000 each. In the Jan. 3 auction, some of the parcels sold for as little as $3,000.
The developer Travis Shields petitioned for Chapter 11 protection just the week before.
But Dade County's chief deputy tax commissioner, Angie Galloway, said the county had not been served with documents from the filing.
"We can't just stop a sale on rumor," she said Thursday.
Galloway said it was too soon to know how many parcel payments will have to be returned, and she said she couldn't provide more details on a legal order that voided the sale.
But Davenport, who bought the land for the Georgia Land Trust, said he received an email from Galloway informing him that his purchase was one of those involved.
"We will be sending a formal letter informing you that the tax sale is void, and we will be refunding all the money you paid," the email states, in part. "A bankruptcy has been filed, and we will be having a court hearing in the near future. ... Please tell me how the checks need to made out so I can have them ready."
In the week after the auction, Dade County Executive Ted Rumley said the strapped county had raised about $210,000 on the $350,000 that had been owed in 2010 taxes. It was help for the financially strapped county that had laid off 18 people and instituted Friday furloughs for many of the county's remaining workers.
Davenport said he hates to lose a conservation opportunity.
"I'm sorry it didn't work out, but we'll just have to back away. We were ready to help Dade County," he said.