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Fighting off deannexation
Madison seeking Decatur’s help in battle against legislative land grab

By Chris Paschenko · 340-2442

Madison’s mayor desperately wants state legislators to cry “April fool” on a proposal that could deannex a prime piece of property slated for a major retail development.

On Monday, Madison Mayor Sandy Kirkindall tried to address Decatur’s City Council to explain that Decatur’s commercial developments could be next if the state approves legislation sponsored by Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe.

Kirkindall’s arrival at Decatur City Hall and request to address the council occurred five minutes after the council adjourned, and City Attorney Herman Marks advised the remaining council members they would need to schedule a meeting with Kirkindall in order to comply with the law.

Meeting with Russell

Kirkindall did, however, meet with councilman Ronny Russell, liaison to the Planning Department, and Planning Department Director Michelle Jordan.

Kirkindall said Madison annexed property near Zierdt Road and Madison Boulevard 40 years ago.

He said the city has negotiated for more than a year with developer Lewis Breland to build a retail center there in the southeast corner of the city near Interstate 565.

Kirkindall said he learned of the legislation through a legal notice published March 10 in The Huntsville Times. The measure seeks to remove 263 acres from Madison’s city limits.

“If the Legislature can do this to us, then they can do it to any city in the state,” Kirkindall said. “This would set a horrible precedent.”

Kirkindall denied Madison couldn’t provide substantial economic incentives to support the development, calling the idea a crock.

Huntsville officials haven’t said they’re interested in annexing the land, but Russell said there is likely be no other reason for the measure.

A spokeswoman for the city of Huntsville wasn’t available Monday.

April showdown?

The earliest date the Legislature could act on the measure is April 1, Kirkindall said, because the legislation must be published in the newspaper four times.

Decatur Mayor Don Kyle said the measure would be akin to the state deannexing the city’s Target development.

John Seymour, president of the Decatur Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, said the Legislature should stay out of an issue involving two cities.

Kirkindall said Barron has no constituents in the area, and that local representative, Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison, is against the legislation.

Kyle and Seymour said state legislators normally abide by a gentleman’s agreement that would likely kill a measure that doesn’t have unanimous support from district representatives.

“It’s my understanding the local delegation had to support a local issue before it got to the full house,” Seymour said. “If our delegation opposed something going on here then the legislature wouldn’t consider it. It’s sort of a courtesy.”

If the measure passes, what’s to stop Hoover from biting off chunks of Birmingham, Seymour asked.

“When we work hard to recruit business to build a tax base, someone shouldn’t be able to come and take it away from us,” Seymour said.

Russell said Decatur’s Planning Commission would address the issue during its Tuesday meeting, and that the council could propose a resolution denouncing the legislation.

“They’re trying to run roughshod over this,” Kirkindall said. “This is raw power politics. I’m shocked that Sen. Barron ... did this without consulting us.”

Kirkindall said he spoke with Perry Roquemore, executive director of the Alabama League of Municipalities, who told him nothing like this has happened since 1973 when Mobile and Chickasaw swapped property back and forth.

“We’re going to fight every way we can,” Kirkindall said. “We simply can’t let this go unchallenged.”

Losing the property and development would hurt Madison’s tax base, Kirkindall said.

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