By Sally Voth
The auction of much of the 350-plus-acre Village of Mt. Zion in Fort Valley on Saturday was called off due to a lack of interested bidders.
But, Don Boozer, project manager for The Redfield Group -- the Alabama company conducting the auction -- didn't seem fazed by the outcome.
"We've talked to churches," he said after the auction was called off at about 12:20 p.m., around an hour after it was to have begun. "We've talked to people that are interested. We're not surprised. Sometimes those corporations or those churches, they don't move fast. That's where we will be focusing our efforts, starting Monday morning.
"We sold some today. We did have people that have expressed some interest in the entirety."
And, that entirety is pretty impressive -- it includes a stone and wood 350-capacity church, a tiny woodland chapel, barns, a meat-processing facility, a warehouse, a wood shop, a school building, pastureland, forestland and nine homes.
It all belongs to Dr. William Sabates, an opthamologist who built Familia Dei, The Village of Mt. Zion, off of Fort Valley Road, as a retreat center. The homes have numerous bedrooms to house visitors.
"He's a devout Catholic," Boozer said last week. "He felt like there was more. He sold his businesses, bought this property, moved up and developed it."
He said Sabates had sold off several sites over the years, and those were developed into a subdivision called the Homes of Mt. Zion. Boozer said Sabates doesn't have any debt on the property.
Most of the parcels up for auction were subject to Sabates' acceptance of the winning bid. However, several pieces of property were being sold to the highest bidder regardless of price, and those were sold off on Saturday.
Auctioneer Mike Fisher did his best to entice high bids from among the roughly three dozen people attending the auction.
"This truly is a spectacular piece of property," he said. "The surroundings, the care and craftsmanship, the pride of ownership that has gone into this property is truly phenomenal and second to none."
Of the absolute sales, one 3-acre lot sold for $12,500, one for $20,000 and two for $10,000 apiece.
"These lots were selling [for] $70-80,000," Fisher said. "These kinds of lots don't sell for this kind of money anywhere around here."
He advised Sabates wouldn't be accepting those types of bids when it came to auctioning off lots of the same size.
"At that type of price, he's not going to sell any more of these 3-acre lots," Fisher said. "If you want some property, you got to get your hand in the air."
A 15-acre tract selling absolute went for $56,250.
Three other parcels received bids subject to Sabates' approval: $188,800 for a 64-acre tract, $25,600 for 8 acres and $100,000 for a 68-acre plot.
No one bid on any of the land with houses or the church.
"Right now, what I'm getting is nobody is interested in what we have left," Fisher said.
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org