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THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 2007
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Burleson Mountain development looks likely

By Eric Fleischauer
eric@decaturdaily.com 340-2435

A tentative agreement between the city and developers reached Wednesday could clear the last major hurdle for an upscale development atop Burle-son Mountain.

The main sticking point for developer Joe Brown Duckworth of Tuscaloosa has been the cost of running sewer to his proposed 400-home, 168-acre residential development at Indian Hills Golf Course.

The estimated cost of extending sewer to the development from Red Bank Road is $500,000.

Kyle's proposal

In the meeting at Decatur Utilities, Mayor Don Kyle proposed a partnership in which the city would pay half the cost of extending the sewer to the development. In the event of additional development in the area, future developers would pay the city for the right to tap into the sewer line.

Duckworth said he liked the plan, provided the city could move forward on it quickly. He said he hopes to capitalize on an ongoing influx of high-paid personnel at Redstone Arsenal, about 20 minutes from the proposed development.

"I need to move on this," Duckworth said. "Decatur does, too. It needs to get some upscale stuff going."

He said he hopes to break ground this fall. Under the agreement, the city would annex the property.

Under an existing DU program, Duckworth would have to front the entire cost of the sewer extension. For up to 12 years, however, he could recoup the money as others tapped into the sewer.

Under the mayor's plan, Duckworth would lose any right to recoup the cost of extending the sewer in return for the city's payment of half the cost.

The city conceivably could recoup its $250,000, plus an additional $250,000, if future development materializes. Unless DU amends its reimbursement plan, the city's recoupment rights would end in 12 years.

The plan, Kyle said, hopefully would encourage more development in the Burleson Mountain area.

DU calculates that an additional 230 acres could access the sewer line running to the Duckworth development by gravity feeds. With pump stations, up to 2,800 acres could benefit from the sewer line.

Attracting growth

Kyle said the plan he proposed would become a fixture in the city's effort to attract residential growth.

"I want us to be able to use sewer for economic development," he said.

His idea, which City Councilman Ronnie Russell said would be on the City Council agenda at its July 16 meeting, would involve the creation of a revolving fund devoted to partnerships with developers. An ordinance would authorize the city to pay up to 50 percent of the cost of extending sewer to residential developments, but the city would evaluate requests from developers on a case-by-case basis.

Separate contracts would dictate the specifics of each city-developer partnership.

Duckworth said his main concern is timing, in part because his land options, although renewable, expire soon.

"I imagine these guys would hang on a little longer," Duckworth said of the landowners.

Extending the line

In addition to the city paying half the cost of extending the sewer, either the city or Decatur Utilities probably would pay to increase the capacity of the sewer line beyond what Duckworth needs for his development.

Kyle said the city would put the $250,000 in an escrow account, releasing the money to Duckworth only after he reaches some specified point in his development.

"We don't want you telling us you'll build 400 lots, we give you a quarter million dollars, and then you only build 90," Kyle said.

DU officials attended the meeting, as did Russell, Councilman David Bolding and Duckworth partner Jim Mitchell.

Most of the development would be on what is now Indian Hills Golf Course. It includes about a mile of bluff sites with views of the Tennessee River.

It is 1.2 miles from Burningtree Country Club and two miles from Interstate 65. Duckworth said he plans a gated community, ranging from townhouses to $400,000 homes on three-fourth-acre lots, similar to Huntsville's Providence development.

Huntsville extends sewer to residential developments at no cost to the developer.

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