Council beginning to build consensus on annexation
The Soldotna city council held a work session to mull over options for annexation Wednesday afternoon. The city has been working to get a petition together for the state for the past few years, but there’s still work to do to get a map more people can agree on.
Of the nine areas that have been looked at so far, a couple have more or less been ruled out for consideration by the state local boundary commission. That’s the group that will eventually deliberate whatever petition the city submits. The focus on the council has largely been to bring in more commercially-developed areas as a means of increasing tax revenue at minimal extra cost. Areas where businesses are already getting services would make sense, like, potentially, K-Beach road.
But another important consideration is whether or not an area feels like it belongs in the city. The council’s newest member, Justin Ruffridge, lobbied for a residential area near the river between Big Eddy road and the current city limit. He pointed out that that neighborhood already feels like part of the city, for all intents and purposes. But intents and purposes have little to do with building codes and new costs.
“You could ride your bike for five minutes down this street and you’re at the library, you’re at the park, you’re at the grocery store. Our police service this area. You’re one second from SoHi for Pete’s sake. Of all the areas that we’re looking at to annex, this is Soldotna," Ruffridge said.
Most of the council would prefer that if residents just outside the city would like to become part of the city, they would organize themselves to do so. But debate on this issue over the last few years suggests that’s not likely. At the same time, though, no one wants to come back in a decade and try to do this again. John Czarnezki, the city’s Director of Economic Development and Planning says the boundary commission uses the same rationale.
“When you do this, make sure you are comprehensive in your approach, so that you are identifying the areas you think should be part of the city from the start and you’re not having to go back and do this again. And we wholeheartedly agree. It’s not something we want to do again and it’s not something the public wants to do again. It’s already been going on for a couple years. They may not specifically want to be in the city, but there are a lot of resources the city offers that attracts people to the general region in the first place and that’s why we’ve seen so much growth in this area.”
Some areas will get a bit more fine tuning, like that neighborhood just barely outside of town. And some areas were ruled out altogether, like a small chunk along the highway toward Sterling. But there was a consensus on several other areas.
“Especially south of Soldotna, so the Funny River area they agreed on. They agreed it should be potentially considered for inclusion in a petition. Same thing for the Tsalteshi area, study area two. Same thing for study area three, although they also agreed, while including that study area which runs along K-Beach, to exclude a large piece of land at the west end of it," Czarnezki said.
A resolution directing city staff to submit a petition to the state has been on hold for a few weeks, and will continue to be on hold at least until June 13th, though, the council indicated it could get pushed back again in order for all council members to have a chance to weigh in during a regular meeting.