More growth might be in Soldotna’s future.
At a workshop preceding Wednesday’s city council meeting, an annexation presentation will be given to review the steps required to legally increase the city’s area.
Soldotna City Planner John Czarnezki said that the city isn’t advocating for or against annexation at this point. Rather, it just wants to know whether it should proceed studying the effects of increasing territory. He said if the city is keen on the idea of annexation, a consultant would be hired to study the economic and social effects.
“The next step, if there is one, is to go ahead collecting information,” Czarnezki said.
Alaska’s constitution allows for cities to expand. Currently, there are four steps to annex land – preplanning, planning, a petition and implementation. The Local Boundary Commission oversees the process.
Czarnezki said the city hasn’t targeted any specific areas for annexation.
Should the city eventually decide to increase its area, it would affect several aspects of Soldotna, including increasing its service area, tax source and amount of voters.
There are several reasons for wanting to annex land.
They include allowing for sufficient area for future population growth, protecting areas and increasing the tax base and revenue source, according to the city’s annexation packet.
While the city expects its population to grow in the coming years, its borders have remained relatively unchanged since 1960.
According to the city’s packet, 332 people inhabited the city in 1960 when it encompassed 7.4 square miles. Currently, about 4,300 people live in the city, which has expanded slightly to 7.5 square miles.
According to the city’s comprehensive plan, Soldotna has more than 500 residents per square mile. That is significantly more than many communities on the peninsula, such as Homer and Kenai, which have 372 and 232 people per square mile respectively.
Czarnezki said that due to the sensitive nature of the annexation, the city is taking the issue seriously.
“It’s going to be a controversial process,” he said. “It’s going to cause a lot of anxiety.”
This isn’t the first time Soldotna has discussed annexation.
In 2008, Soldotna attempted to annex land bordering the city, but Dave Carey, then Soldotna Mayor, vetoed the process citing strong opposition from residents in the proposed areas.
“If the people in the three inhabited areas of annexation (Funny River Road, Kalifornsky Beach Road and Ridgeway) were allowed to exercise their vote on annexation, I would support the ordinance.” Carey said at the time. “Instead, they have overwhelmingly voiced their opposition to annexation.”
While annexation attempts have failed in the past, Czarnezki said one of the main things is that the process is transparent. He encouraged people to attend the workshop.
“We want to make everyone cognizant of it,” he said. “We want to go in with our eyes open, and we want to make sure we have a really good public process.”
Clarion file material was used in this article.
Reach Ian Foley at Ian.firstname.lastname@example.org