February 4, 2000
By Rob Peecher
(EATONTON - The talk of the town here Thursday wasn't really the talk of the town at all.
In fact, most people didn't care one way or another that the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors has put a hand-painted sign on the front gate of its 476-acre village offering "Land for sale."
"If they stay, it's fine," said Kimberly Lee, a waitress at Rusty's Restaurant in downtown Eatonton. "If they leave, it's fine." Lee said no one was talking about it at lunch Thursday.
But at least some people are taking notice of the sign. Al Woodall, an agent representing the nine individuals who own the property, said Thursday he has received a number of calls. Woodall's number is the one painted on the "for sale" sign erected Tuesday afternoon.
"I'm getting about 30 (calls) a day," Woodall said. Some of the calls are people interested in buying the property hailed as "Egypt of the West." Others are just calling to see what's going on, he said.
Woodall said the property's nine owners are not ready to make any public comment about their decision to put the land on the market. And he said a price for the property has not been disclosed .
Malachi York, the founder of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, bought the property for $975,000 in 1993. The village has become home to about 150 members of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, and hundreds of other Nuwaubians live in the surrounding communities of Eatonton and Milledgeville.
Several acres of the property, which front Shady Dale Highway, are adorned with Egyptian-style statues, two pyramids, a sphinx and other structures, many with Egyptian-style facades.
Ralph Perdomo, chairman of the Putnam County Commission, said he had heard the property was for sale but questions the sincerity. "We'll see if that's legitimate," he said. "I also heard that if 100 citizens can come up with $10,000, we're all going to buy it." Perdomo said he doesn't know why the Nuwaubians would consider selling the property.
"They haven't taken me into their confidence," Perdomo said. At Wooten's Barber Shop, some folks have been talking about the sign, owner Sammy Wooten said.
But "most people just laugh," Wooten said.
Wooten and his customers also wonder at the offer of land for sale. "Who's going to buy it? Who would want that? I think it's just for show," he said.
The Nuwaubians aren't saying much about the land going on the market. Woodall declined to say how much the property owners want for the property. Renee McDade, a spokeswoman for the Nuwaubians, refused to say if the group is planning to move from Putnam County.
After buying the land in 1993, York deeded it to a trust in February 1999. Woodall, acting as manager of the trust, deeded the land in June to the nine individuals now listed as property owners.
Since 1998, the Nuwaubians and county officials have been engaged in a series of legal battles about what the county claims are numerous violations of the county's zoning and building codes.
Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills has issued citations to various Nuwaubians alleging zoning violations. In literature distributed by members of the group, Sills has been the target of accusations and criticism.
Thursday, the sheriff had little to say about the land going up for sale but said he has been "inundated" with calls from people curious about the sale. And if the price is right, the sheriff said he'd be an interested buyer. "I wish I had enough money to buy it," Sills said, "because I certainly would, because it would be worth it to me."