Decatur council approves Sweetwater project - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Decatur council approves Sweetwater project

The council voted 3-2 in favor of continuing with plans for the retail development project. The council voted 3-2 in favor of continuing with plans for the retail development project.
DECATUR, AL (WAFF) -

The city of Decatur is one step closer to building the much anticipated Sweetwater development. The city council approved plans for the project by a 3-2 vote Monday night.

In March, it was revealed that the plans for the project would include a Bass Pro shop. The store, along with other major retailers, would be built on the Limestone County side of Decatur at the corner of Alabama 20 and I-65.

"I think that when you look at it, certainly there is the risk. That is the thing that I would be most concerned about. And so what I would say is that we've worked really hard on this contract to get the level of risk to an acceptable level," said Decatur City Councilman Chuck Ard.

The project was approved once before, but it fell through for various reasons. City leaders said this time around, more loose-ends were tied up ahead of the vote. Ard said he expected both positive and negative feedback from the public.

Councilman Charles Kirby was one of two who voted 'no' on the measure, alongside Billy Jackson. Both pointed to fears of "bleeding" and driving business away from smaller mom-and-pop type stores in the area.

"I think it takes a risk the governement shouldn't be taking," said Councilman Kirby. "If it was truly a private-sector risk, my vote would have changed."

"I hope my fears are unfounded," Kirby said during the council meeting.

Most council members admitted there will be some of that, but said the benefits of bringing a business of Bass Pro's magnitude to the city would outweigh those risks.

Finance was another area of concern voiced at the meeting: Is there enough money in the budget to make the project feasible? Councilman Ard said the project will essentially pay for itself. He said the proposals and failed agreements previously voted on were very different.

He said in those cases, the city put up more money and guarantees, something the city couldn't sustain. This time around, the majority of council members and the mayor are confident the project will succeed.

"They were willing to work with us on the window for when the rebates begin, to the extent that we will be able to protect our general fund - bottom line - in a way we could never conceive of before," said Mayor Don Kyle. "They were the driving force to make this happen now. Without them financially, this wouldn't have worked.

The project is expected to bring in 400 jobs during the first phase of the project, with the city estimating that number to grow to 4,000 over the next decade. It is expected to occupy more than 100 acres of land between Alabama 20 and I-65 in Limestone County.

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