This November 21, 2015 shows the sign designating the unofficial border of Nikiski, Alaska. (Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Local Boundary Commission extends comment period for Nikiski incorporation petition

Those with an interest in Nikiski’s petition to become a home-rule city have some more time to weigh in to the Local Boundary Commission, the state entity that will make the final decision.

The commission, under the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, announced a second extension of an additional public comment period on Wednesday, giving residents and interested parties until Aug. 22 to comment on the petition it accepted in December. An unincorporated community north of Kenai of about 4,600, Nikiski would become a city of 5,480 square miles stretching across the Cook Inlet and including about 5,900 people if it incorporated.

A preliminary report from the Local Boundary Commission released in May pointed out several issues making incorporation difficult for Nikiski. Mainly, it highlighted the sheer size of the proposed city — the boundaries follow the existing fire and emergency service area which includes the Inlet and the communities of Beluga and Tyonek — and claimed that the proposed city wouldn’t offer enough services not already being covered by the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

The report concluded that the petition drafted by Citizens for Nikiski Incorporated, a group of residents dedicated to studying and pursuing incorporation, did not meet enough of the standards for incorporation set by the commission.

Stacy Oliva and Paul Huber, co-vice chairs of Citizens for Nikiski Inc., said the preliminary report was surprising to the group and that members had expected a bit more guidance from the state level in regard to the petition if things needed to be amended before the preliminary report.

The large boundary, which the group maintains is feasible and supported by the four service areas in the community that bring in property taxes, is something group members are discussing. Huber cited examples of other communities with unique circumstances incorporating successfully into cities, such as the 27-square mile Edna Bay in 2013, which then had a population hovering around 60, according to the community’s petition.

“We knew it was large,” Huber said of the would-be city of Nikiski boundaries. “But you know, when you look at the state of Alaska, the state itself is large.

Both Huber and Oliva encouraged residents of the area to voice their opinions and ask questions.

“The main thing is for people to just get involved,” Oliva said. “Any time that we have a political process where the lay person can be involved … I encourage people to become involved. This is how we support our community, this is how we support our state.”

The Kenai Peninsula Borough and the combined Native Village of Tyonek and Tyonek Native Corporation submitted briefs to the Local Boundary Commission opposing the petition. There were, however, 28 public comments submitted in support, out of 30 total comments, according to the preliminary report.

The extended comment period ends at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 22. Comments may be sent to LBC@alaska.gov or to LBS staff, 550 W. 7th Ave., Ste. 1640, Anchorage, AK 99501.

Staff will then consider the comments and write a final report.

If the final report on the petition recommends an amendment or conditional approval of the petition, then another 14 days will be allowed for more written comments. According to the new schedule, the final report would be mailed out in October and a public hearing would be scheduled.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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