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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2007
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Madison developer digs deep to annex land from Limestone
Agreement calls for $10,000 payment per lot

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com · 340-2432

Limestone County Commission Chairman David Seibert’s reaction to the news that Madison annexed another 72 acres of his county Monday night was almost blasé.

Athens, Madison, Huntsville and Decatur have all got their pieces of what area developers call the Golden Triangle.

“It’s just one of those deals,” Seibert said. “If a property owner requests annexation, they have the right to do it. The municipalities like this area because it has such high growth.”

Madison contractor and developer Joe Murphy really wants his subdivision on Greenbrier-Powell Road in the city of Madison. In an agreement with Madison, he will pay an assessment fee of at least $10,000 per lot to help fund roads and schools.

He told The Daily on Tuesday that he plans to build 167 homes with a clubhouse. That’s $1.67 million in assessment fees alone.

The Madison City Council approved the agreement Monday night, its Limestone land to roughly 1,000 acres. The Huntsville Times reported Murphy proposed a residential improvement district, a plan similar to those in Shelby and Baldwin counties.

The plan uses the assessment fee to help fund roads and schools in what will be called the "Greenbrier Improvement District."

Madison Mayor Sandy Kirkindall told The Daily on Tuesday that an improvement district helps the city deal with the difficult issue of growth. Growing cities like Madison and Athens often have problems keeping up with development. He said Madison reached 40,000 in population this month, making it larger than Florence.

For example, Athens city officials complained at budget hearings Thursday and Friday about not having the funds to expand city services as the city grows. City department heads said they need 11 new employees in fire, police, recreation, courts and revenue.

"One of the real problems of growth is trying to make growth pay for itself," Kirkindall said. "When you build a subdivision, the impact is almost immediate. Children start attending the schools and people need trash pickup and police protection."

Kirkindall said he is still trying to work out the details, but he expects about 75 percent of the improvement district funds to go to the school system and about 25 percent to roads and services.

While the $10,000 per lot assessment fee appears steep, Kirkindall said the developer knows it's worth it. He said the average new private home in Madison runs about $300,000.

"Being accepted into Madison, its city school system and getting city services is easily worth $10,000," Kirkindall said.

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