Bill Heard Jr.’s $18 million mansion is slated for sale outside the Columbus Government Center Tuesday, while some acreage formerly owned by Heard was sold last week.
The five-year-old Lake Oliver home — more than an acre under its roof — has been foreclosed on by Columbus Bank & Trust Co. The bank, which is owed about $10 million on the property, has been advertising a bankruptcy sale for the past month. Bankruptcy sales normally occur between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the outside plaza level of the Government Center.
Heard’s house and other assets got tangled in the bankruptcy of Bill Heard Enterprises, a national Chevrolet dealer based in Columbus. The company, which started as a single dealership in Columbus nearly 90 years ago, closed 14 stores and filed for U.S. Bankruptcy Court Chapter 11 protection in September. The company’s assets are being liquidated.
CB&T and its parent company Synovus were owed about $53 million as a result of the Heard Enterprises bankruptcy. The Columbus dealership’s Manchester Expressway property and automobile parts the bank controlled sold last month to McDonough, Ga., automobile dealer Emanuel Jones for about $15 million.
A Synovus spokesman did not respond to requests Monday for information on the bankruptcy sale. The company is being represented by Atlanta law firm Troutman Sanders LLP, which also did not comment on the pending sale.
Last Wednesday, CB&T sold 723 acres, formerly owned by Heard’s Twentieth Century Land Corp., to The Nature Conservancy for about $6.5 million, said Wade Harrison, director of the conservancy’s Chattahoochee Fall Line Program.
The land, south of U.S. 80 near the northeastern corner of Fort Benning in easternmost Muscogee County, shares a more than one-mile property line with Fort Benning. It stretches approximately from Cox Creek on the west to Cartledge Road on the east.
The conservancy, which works with Fort Benning to plan and monitor the management of the ecosystem of the post’s more than 182,000 acres, used federal funds to buy the property. The money came from the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program.
The Nature Conservancy plans to use the land as a buffer to military training and land management activities on the northern part of the post. A new firing range is being built in that area and will be used when the Armor School relocates from Fort Knox late next year.
“Any sort of residential or commercial development along that boundary would be a problem for the military training, and military training will only intensify along that north boundary,” Harrison said.
The conservancy plans to hold the land for a year or more and get it placed in a conservation easement, where it can’t be developed.
The land would then be sold for less than the $9,000 per acre the conservancy paid.
“It is very unlikely the Nature Conservancy would own it forever as a nature preserve,” Harrison said. “When we purchase land, our typical approach is to manage it for a year or two or three, make sure it is encumbered with the conservation easement and sell it back on the free market for some land owner to own and enjoy.”
The land now is mostly planted with young loblolly pines that need to be thinned and eventually managed with prescribed fire, Harrison said.
“We would very likely begin a gradual conversion to longleaf pine to improve the tract's wildlife habitat quality and make it more resilient during any future wildfires," Harrison said.
The 723 acres were part of a larger tract that crossed U.S. 80 to the north. The Nature Conservancy was not interested in the roughly 400 additional acres, Harrison said.
“That land would have been even more expensive,” Harrison said. “North of the highway is not as important to Fort Benning as far as any kind of training.”
The Nature Conservancy began looking at the property in mid to late summer, Harrison said.