State taking comments on Soldotna annexation
The state’s Local Boundary Commission is accepting comments on the city of Soldotna’s petition to expand city boundaries by 2.61 square miles through annexation.
After a years-long process within the city, the council voted in September in favor of submitting an amended annexation petition. The final version removed two large areas along Kalifornsky Beach Road. It still includes two areas along Funny River Road, Tsalteshi Trails and Skyview Middle School along the Sterling Highway, a small stretch along the south side of K-Beach Road just past the trails, and an area north of town along the Kenai Spur Highway east toward Mackey Lake Road.
According to Eileen Raese, a local government specialist with the commission, anyone is welcome to submit a comment, whether they live in the area or not.
“Really, we accept anyone. We don’t have any restrictions on public comments. It may hold more weight, I guess, if someone is related to the actual petition — if they have property there or something like that. But sometimes certain petitions have out-of-state parties that send them in, if they have fishing licenses that are affected or things like that. So they’re open to everyone,” Raese said.
Comments need to be submitted in writing, by mail, email or fax. Comments must also be sent to the city of Soldotna. Other than that, there are no word limits, format requirements or other rules governing how you weigh in.
The city’s petition will be evaluated on how well it meets the standards governing annexation that are laid out in state statute. None of those standards require a vote of the people living in the proposed areas to be annexed, but Raese says the commissioners do have some discretion to consider public sentiment.
“The standards are what we, as staff, make recommendations based on, and it’s also what the commissions will use to make their decision,” Raese said. “They do have some discretion and that’s why they do take pubic comment. But it’s most effective if you use those standards to guide your comments. But those are the rules governed by statute and regulation that are supposed to be considered when there’s a boundary change to be decided on.”
Comments must be received at the commission’s office in Anchorage by 4:30 p.m. Feb. 24. But this is just the beginning of the state’s process.
Staff will review the comments, then conduct a review and analysis of petition. They’ll publish a preliminary report, which kicks off another public comment period. Following that, staff will publish a final report and recommendation to the commission. Then the commission will hold a hearing, where the public will also be able to participate.
If that doesn’t make it obvious, Raese says the commission really does want to hear from people.
“We do read every comment that we get and they all become part of the public record. And, yeah, I think it’s important to participate if you have something to say,” Raese said.
The city’s petition can be viewed at City Hall and on the city’s website, the Borough Building, the Kenai and Soldotna libraries and on the commission’s website. The contact information to submit comments to the commission can also be found on the commissions website.