Soldotna’s petition to annex nearby areas was accepted by the Local Boundary Commission earlier this month, and the public comment process has begun. However, there’s a long process ahead before the city limits could change.
At its Sept. 26 city council meeting, the city of Soldotna voted unanimously to remove areas 4 and 5 — the two annexation areas along K-Beach Road — from the annexation petition and authorized city manager Stephanie Queen to send the amended petition to the Local Boundary Commission, the state entity with the authority to change and create municipal boundaries.
The city is petitioning to annex about 2.61 square miles, including an area near the Soldotna Airport along Funny River Road; an area including and near the Tsalteshi Trails and Skyview Middle School; an area that includes a business corridor along the Kenai Spur Highway, ending near Big Eddy Road; and an area along Funny River Road.
In a Dec. 2 letter to Queen, the Local Boundary Commission said the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development completed its technical review of the petition, and accepted it for filing.
The Local Boundary Commission will receive written comments concerning the petition until 4:30 p.m. Feb. 24, 2020. Anyone wishing to provide a comment to the commission must send an original paper document of the comment within 10 days of submitting an electronically filed comment. Residents who have questions or would like more information can call 907-269-4587 or 907-269-4559.
The city’s annexation petition, notices and documents are available for anyone in the public to review at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Building, Soldotna City Hall, Soldotna Public Library, City of Soldotna website and the City of Kenai Library.
In March, the city will have an opportunity to provide a brief reply. After that, the Local Boundary Commission will submit a preliminary report on May 4, and public comment for that report will begin that same day, ending June 1. After the public comments are compiled, the commission will create a final report in July, which residents will have an opportunity to speak to in person at a public hearing during the week of July 27, 2020.
In June 2018, the Soldotna City Council passed a resolution to start drafting a petition to annex seven areas adjacent to the city limits.
The petition to annex areas around the city has seen backlash from area residents. In a Soldotna city public hearing held Sept. 7, more than 30 residents spoke against the city’s efforts to annex, while only one resident spoke in support.
In the petition, the city said it’s hoping to annex nearby areas as a way to respond to growth and development and to more accurately align the city’s corporate boundaries with the community that has developed since the city’s incorporation in 1960.
Through annexation, Soldotna will have the opportunity to collect millions in tax revenue from the inclusion of additional businesses and residents.
Soldotna said annexation could benefit residents by giving them a voice in city government and lowering property tax rates. Residents in Soldotna pay 8.06 mills, or 0.9 mills less than the tax rate paid by borough residents (8.96 mills) within the territory proposed for annexation, according to the petition.
Residents being annexed would also have access to city services, including parks and recreation, a library, animal control, water and waste water utilities, comprehensive zoning, economic development incentives, local police protection and building code review and inspections for commercial and residential construction, according to the petition.
Residents in the areas proposed for annexation have said they would like to vote on the matter. State law allows municipalities to expand their boundaries through the legislative review process or through voter approval.