The Soldotna city council signed off on the final map it will have the state consider for potential annexation at its meeting Wednesday.
After years of discussions, work sessions and public hearings, there weren’t many surprises left Wednesday night. For nearly an hour, the council heard a steady stream of dissenting voices that, in most cases, oppose any effort toward expanding the city’s footprint.
“If annexed, all these codes, regulations, requirements, fees, restrictions, etc. could affect each and every property owner from using their property as they see fit. This simply means if you annex them, they are certainly losing property rights to develop as they choose…
"Many of you know me, you know I’ve a vet. It’s not what I fought for. That’s not what I served for. We’re supposed to have a voice. Everyone is supposed to have a voice. This is taking away our voice…
"You’ve done a really good job. But you’re a really small city. And as you grow, you’re growing into an area that’s been much more free than the residences or businesses of the city…
"I’ve got my own water, my own sewer, I’ve got utilities there. I pay taxes to the borough, they plow my roads, take care of dust control. I’ve got access to the borough dump. I don’t need you guys. I went to your meetings last fall, three different nights, and there’s nothing you can provide for us.”
That’s been a big rallying cry for folks who may have homes or business annexed, that city services wouldn’t be any better or much different than what they get from the borough. Property taxes, however, would be lower. Soldotna residents pay a scant 0.5 mills, while the rate in the borough is 4.7. But the thornier issue is one of zoning. Borough residents, by and large, say they live in the borough precisely because of a lack of zoning.
But Soldotna city manager Stephanie Queen says zoning should be used to protect the nature of a given neighborhood, not change it.
“The reason we have nine (zoning) districts already is that in some areas, livestock is appropriate, in other areas it may not be. Zoning is a tool to let an area protect (its) characteristics, if they so choose. While there are some unique circumstances, for example if you’re going to build a gravel pit in a residential area if that were to be allowed, that would require some additional review, but again, it’s for the protection of the residents of that zone, if they deem that to be a use compatible with that zone or not.”
The council made a number of amendments to the proposed annexation map, striking entire sections from consideration. Two areas along Funny River Road on either side of the airport will be included, as will a portion of K-Beach Road, though it was trimmed to remove residential neighborhoods. A section along the north side Spur highway near the edge of town will be studied, as will a scaled-down area near the college. A large block encompassing Tsalteshi Trails and Skyview Middle School will also be considered.
Queen says the draft petition staff will put together will come back to the council before being sent to the state, and it will have more details about the transition from borough to city controlled areas. The council also signed off on the budget for next year, which didn’t see any major changes for fiscal year 2019 and will total just less than $13 million dollars.