The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

March 19, 2013

UPDATE: Decatur looks to Limestone for Sweetwater funding

— A development that would bring a new hotel, at least three restaurants and, possibly, Bass Pro Shop, to Decatur-annexed land in Limestone County won’t happen unless Limestone puts up some of the incentive needed to draw state money to the project.

In a 4-1 vote Monday, Decatur City Council members tentatively approved a proposed $40 million Sweetwater development Monday. It would be located on a 125-acre tract at the interchange of Interstates 65 and 565.

Under the preliminary agreement, Decatur would spend $12 million in proceeds from the sale of municipal bonds to pay for land and infrastructure at the proposed site southwest of the interchange plus offer $28 million in sales tax rebates. In exchange, a proposed "destination retailer" — thought to be Bass Pro Shop — would borrow $28 million to build and operate a retail store of at least 100,000 square feet plus surrounding improvements. The three, or more, restaurants would have to pay the city at least $73,500 in sales tax annually. Bass Pro would repay the money it borrows over the next 20 years. The council would have to approve a final proposal before the development would occur.

Decatur officials said during their meeting Monday that the deal won’t be possible without Limestone County’s money because it is needed to lure incentive money from the state. However, the state has funded projects before without county approval.

Should Limestone commissioners choose to cast money in Sweetwater’s direction, Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee said the county’s share would be no more than $5 million. Menefee said he would not know the actual figure until he discusses the matter with Decatur city leaders, which he plans to do this week.



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