U.S. Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-Ga.) won’t pay additional tax on a nearly 500-acre undeveloped tract of land he bought four years ago in Camden County, near the site of a future spaceport.

Ending a two-year dispute over the value of the property, the Camden Equalization Board agreed last month to freeze the assessed value of the land for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 tax years.

Carter did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Camden County District Attorney John Myers also did not respond. No more than three members of the Bureau of Equalization.

U.S. Representative Buddy Carter paid $2.1 million for land in Camden, then successfully appealed his valuation at $273,810. He is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. Credit: Craig Nelson/The Current

Carter, who represents all of coastal Georgia, lives on the north end of District 1 in Chatham County. But in 2018, he paid $2.05 million for the land in his district’s southernmost county. Although the plot includes 250 acres of elevated land zoned for residential development, Carter maintains he is keeping it for hunting and fishing and not as an investment. He did not include the purchase in his financial statements to Congress and claimed he did not buy it as an investment. But he didn’t put it in a conservation easement, a way to limit land use for tax relief.

The land is about 10 miles from the future Spaceport Camden, on the same road. Carter has been a controversial supporter of the project and just months after its land purchase, he led a bipartisan letter from Georgia congressional delegation urging the Federal Aviation Administration to issue the county a launch site operator license.

In 2020, when Carter appealed his assessment, the Camden County tax assessor had fix the value of the land at $273,810, slightly less than the previous year and about 13% of what Carter paid two years prior. Carter cited “value” and “taxability” as grounds for his appeal.

Savings of $27,000

The real financial benefit of the call would come in 2021 when the valuation hits $1.3 million. His tax bill went from $3,567 to $16,831. Because the settlement freezes the assessment for 2020-22, he ultimately avoided paying the county about $27,000.

After Carter failed to show up for his Equalization Board hearing in late 2020, the county deemed the case settled in his favor. But Carter sued, alleging he was misled by a county employee into believing he could be excused from that hearing and have his assessment frozen for three years by writing a letter stipulating his agreement with the disputed assessment.

U.S. Representative Buddy Carter bought this land in 2018 for $2.1 million. He appealed the 2020 property tax assessment which set the value at 13% of the sale price. Credit: Camden County

In January, a superior court judge denied Camden’s request to dismiss the lawsuit. Instead of the court hearing, which was scheduled for late summer, both sides agreed to refer the case to the Equalization Board. The board met and approved the settlement at its May 10 meeting. Carter is keeping the 2020 assessment until next year. Each party pays its own legal fees.

Carter’s estimated net worth in 2019 was $66 million, making him the 10th richest member of the United States House of Representatives at the time. according to an OpenSecrets.org ranking.

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