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Council annexes 166-acre property
Decatur lures future 400-lot development with sewer ordinance

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

By a unanimous vote, the Decatur City Council ushered in what may become a new era for city expansion.

After months of delay, the council moved forward Monday with a 166-acre property annexation in the Burleson Mountain area near Interstate 65..

It's the largest annexation for a residential development in Decatur's recent history.

Known as the Duckworth project, the property is the future home of a 400-lot residential development aimed at catering to military personnel and government contractors relocating to Huntsville's Redstone Arsenal as bases in other areas of the country close.

Analysts predict new military programs coming to Redstone — part of the government's Base Realignment and Closure program — will bring thousands of jobs to North Alabama and more than $500 million in annual payroll by 2011.

City officials say the new development, north of the Indian Hills Golf Course, will help Decatur capture a percentage of that influx.

"We're making higher-priced housing available close to the interstate, which will appeal to people moving down here, so this is a very, very good thing," said District 3 City Councilman Gary Hammon, who represents the newly annexed area. "I'm tickled to death with it."

According to developer Joe Brown Duckworth of Tuscaloosa, the Burleson Mountain development could easily have gone to another North Alabama city if it had not been for a new city ordinance intended to encourage residential development.

Passed by the council in July, the ordinance mimics similar programs in Huntsville and Madison by allowing the city to help pay for the cost of providing sewer service to new development areas.

In return, developers must agree to annex their property into the city, creating a larger tax base and increasing Decatur's population.

The ordinance also sets up a special fund that recoups money as new homes tie onto the city sewer. City officials say they will use that money to entice further annexation and development.

Duckworth said it would have cost him about $500,000 to run a sewer line up Burleson Mountain, making the development cost prohibitive and unlikely to succeed. After months of negotiations though, the city agreed to fund $250,000 for the sewer line.

Duckworth said he hopes to start construction on roads and utilities in mid-December, immediately after the city's standard 60-day waiting period for official annexation closes. He said lots will go on sale shortly afterward.

"We're kind of thinking this is just what Decatur needs to attract new people that will be coming to the area," he said.

The Duckworth project is the first to utilize the city's sewer fund, but officials are hopeful others will follow.

In addition to the Duckworth project, city officials are working to develop areas along Alabama 20 in Limestone County. The council already has approved two traffic studies to improve highway access to the area.

Other city projects in the works include annexing more than 5 square miles west of Decatur, extending the city limits west to Woodall Road and north to Alabama 20.

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