Commission seeks public input on annexation decision process

Oct 20, 2020

Credit Local Boundary Commission

A decision by the Alaska Local Boundary Commission on Soldotna’s annexation petition has been pushed back a week or longer so the commission can decide whether it wants to put the subject to a public vote.

In the meantime, the commission is again accepting written public testimony — not on the city’s annexation petition, but on whether the matter should be determined by a vote.

The annexation of 2.63 square miles of surrounding land into the city of Soldotna was the subject of hours of commission meetings and public testimony this summer. The commission was slated to reach its decision this fall. But in August, commissioner Lance Roberts motioned to amend the city’s petition from a process of legislative review to a process of public vote.

Under legislative review, the commission votes on the city’s annexation petition. If they vote for approval, it moves on to the Legislature. If the Legislature takes the matter up and votes against the petition, it fails. If they take no action, it goes into effect. 

If the petition is converted to the public option method, residents within the proposed annexation areas and the existing boundaries of Soldotna could vote on the proposal, according to an employee of the Local Boundary Commission. 

During a meeting today, the commission went into executive session to hash out the legal logistics of Roberts’ motion to change the petition from legislative review to the local option method.

Following that session, the commission reviewed a statement the city of Soldotna submitted Aug. 30, in which it asserted the commission has an established precedent of approving legislative review petitions. 

LBC staff member Jed Smith read part of the request at the meeting: “The city’s primary interest is to inform the commission of the constitutional principles providing for the legislative review, as applied in prior decisions of the commission. As explained in the attached proposed submission, the commission has a long and unbroken history of approving legislative review petitions over objections that boundary decisions should be made determined by a popular vote.”

The city also stated that only two of those who provided public comment this summer were residents of the proposed annexation area, and that both testified in favor of annexation. Many of those in opposition own businesses or property in the proposed areas, but don’t live there.

Ultimately, the commission voted to release Soldotna’s statement to the public and allow for a seven day, written-only comment period. That period will be open through Oct. 27 at 5 p.m. Comments can be submitted to lbc@alaska.gov, and relevant documents will be posted to the LBC site by the end of the day today.

Residents are invited to comment on whether or not annexation should be up for a public vote, not on whether or not the proposed annexation should occur.

The commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. Oct. 29 to take one of three options — amend the petition so the decision is up for a public vote, approve the city’s petition as it is under legislative review or deny the petition, which would halt the annexation process.