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Decatur gives loose support to church interchange effort

By Martin Burkey
DAILY Staff Writer

mburkey@decaturdaily.com 340-2441

Decatur City Council approved a loosely worded resolution Monday supporting Calvary Assembly of God's effort to seek ways to fund an interchange in front of its property on Alabama 20.

Church officials asked for the resolution as an indication that the council is interested in tax increment financing for the interchange if the details can be worked out. The request nearly died without action two weeks ago until the church suggested it would go ahead with plans to seek three traffic lights at its 180-acre site.

The threat of traffic problems was enough to get the council to approve a non-committal resolution, which doesn't specifically mention tax increment financing.

So-called TIF financing would allow the church to borrow $9 million to build the interchange with on- and off-ramps, and recoup the cost with deferred tax revenue from commercial development on the site.

The resolution doesn't commit the council to approving TIF legislation, but church officials said they wouldn't spend several thousand dollars exploring the idea if the council wasn't open to the idea.

The current council has been leery of giving tax abatements or tax incentives.

The Calvary TIF proposal is similar to a tax incentive proposal for a regional retail complex on Alabama 20 that died amid controversy two years ago.

Like that proposal, future tax revenues would be diverted to pay for part of the project.

Unlike that proposal, which included incentives for site preparation and construction, the Calvary proposal would fund an interstate-style interchange that would accommodate heavy traffic on Alabama 20, as well as traffic entering and leaving the church property.

While the church would have to pay for relatively inexpensive traffic lights, it is not required to build an elaborate interchange, Calvary officials note.

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