News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2007

Pitching in for sewer service
Officials say proposal may make Decatur more attractive to developers

By Evan Belanger 340-2442

For years, developers have said the cost of gaining access to Decatur's public-sewer service has deterred them from building homes and business structures in the area.

But the City Council hopes to change that trend as early as next week. During its meeting Monday, the council will consider a resolution that could make the Decatur area more attractive to potential developers.

Intended to foster quicker economic and residential growth, the measure would establish a special fund to pay for extending sewer service to new developments in the Decatur area.

If passed, it will allow the council to pull money from the city's general fund to pay for all or portions of the cost of extending sewer service to new development areas. In return, developers must agree to annex their properties into the city, increasing Decatur's tax base.

The special fund will also be reimbursed as new customers tie onto the public-sewer system, said Mayor Don Kyle.

"In each case, it is designed so that the city can become a partner in developing the sewer line," he said. "It could grow to be a significant source of sewer funding."

The proposed resolution is good news for developers like Joe Brown Duckworth of Tuscaloosa, who is planning to develop 168 acres on Burleson Mountain adjacent Southeast Decatur.

While Duckworth's development is expected to include about 400 upscale homes adjacent the Indian Hills Golf Course, he says the estimated $500,000 -to-$600,000 cost of extending sewer service about a mile to the development site would have forced him to look elsewhere for a suitable property.

"It just runs up the cost of the lots and the houses," he said. "It kind of works against them."

Instead, city officials have agreed to pay for half of the project's cost, making Duckworth want to stay.

According to Duckworth, Decatur's old policies were unattractive to developers when compared to cities like Madison and Huntsville, which will extend sewer service at little or no charge as long as the developer agrees to annex the property into the municipality.

"In Decatur, they've had this policy where they would pay only a very small amount of it," Duckworth said."

If the sewer-development resolution is passed Monday, Duckworth's development is expected to be the first to utilize the special fund. According to Kyle, Duckworth's proposed development triggered the city's work on the sewer resolution.

Kyle said he hopes to have contracts making the development agreement official sometime this month.

According to District 4 Councilman Ronny Russell, who is proposing the sewer-development resolution, while the new resolution will make Decatur more competitive, it's only a "good start."

"It's a progressive move," he said. "This will allow us to do things that other cities do to make themselves more development friendly."

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