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Land Conservation: Owner Protects Retreat



Owner protects hunting retreat

Investment banker pays $9 million for Annandale

Of The Post and Courier Staff

A renowned duck-hunting retreat and former rice plantation in the Santee River delta has been permanently protected from development as part of a $9 million sale.

Georgetown County native Dan J. Ray purchased the 3,400-acre Annandale Plantation on Dec. 30. The next day, the Colorado-based investment banker placed the entire tract under a conservation easement, putting to rest any concerns that the property would someday be developed.

Ray said Tuesday that he bought Annandale as a personal investment for hunting and other recreational purposes. "I just want it to stay as pristine a natural habitat as it is, and we have some very good neighbors who share the same perspective," he said.

Annandale dates back to 1791 and once encompassed 5,000 acres.

Ray said most other neighboring historic plantations are already protected from large-scale development activity. "What we're trying to achieve as individuals and as a group is to make sure that corner of the Santee River remains a natural habitat forever," Ray said.

Most of those properties have been protected through conservation easements, binding legal agreements that offer owners tax breaks in exchange for putting certain permanent restrictions on their land and meeting other requirements.

Bordered by Minim Creek and the Intracoastal Waterway, Annandale is about 10 miles south of Georgetown and 47 miles north of Charleston. The property includes a 4,200-square-foot main home, guest cottages, 1,200 acres of uplands and 2,200 acres of marshland and rice fields, said Chip Hall of Plantation Services Inc.'s Charleston office, which represented the seller.

The Nature Conservancy worked for more than two years to find a buyer for the historic plantation, said Edwin Cooper, executive director of Ducks Unlimited's Lowcountry chapter. "They were trying get it into the hands of somebody who would protect it," said Cooper, whose group will oversee the easement.

Annandale needs some significant repairs. Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Conservancy are now working together with Ray on plans to refurbish the rice-field trunks and other water-management systems that help attract wildlife, especially ducks, Cooper and Ray said.

Ray is a former Army artillery officer who is senior vice president and managing director of GMAC Commercial Holding's Denver-based global project finance group, a unit of General Motors Corp.

He knows the lay of the land around Annandale. He grew up between Georgetown and Andrews, where he still has family. He also owns Millbrook Plantation, which is across the road from Annandale. That smaller property is now up for sale, said Phillip Lammonds of Prince George Premier Properties, which represented Ray in the Annandale purchase.

Ray bought Annandale from the trusts that oversee the estates of the late former owners, C.E. Graham Reeves and his wife, Joan.When it last went on the market in 1995, the plantation was listed for $18 million. By 2002 the asking price had been reduced to roughly $13 million, and last year it dropped to $9.4 million.

Selling such a unique piece of land is a challenge, said Hall of Plantation Services.

"There are lots of people who'd like to own that kind of property, but the air gets pretty thin when you're talking $9 million," Hall said. 


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