When it comes to annexation, the city of Soldotna wants to be transparent.
On Wednesday at Soldotna City Hall, John Czarnezki, Soldotna city planner, gave a presentation regarding how the city is dealing with the idea of redrawing the city’s boundaries.
Czarnezki, along with City Manager Mark Dixson, and Director of Economic Development and Planning Stephanie Queen, made it clear that the public will play an integral role in any process concerning annexation.
Because the city is holding preliminary discussions, there have yet to be any areas proposed for annexation.
“The value of talking about maps at this point is just to decide where we schedule all the town hall meetings,” Queen said. “Where are we going to talk to the folks so we can start hearing what folks are talking about or concerned about?”
Queen said she understands concerns from residents outside of the city who may be fearful that annexation could affect issues such as maintaining land for agriculture, possessing certain animals, and water and sewer restrictions.
“We need to get all the issues down in front of us,” she said. “[We need to] realize that there will be valid concerns, and understand that maybe there are things the city can do to address them, but not all of them. But we can commit to trying to do that in a robust way to present that to both the public and the council.”
The push for transparency is the result of a previous annexation attempt the city made several years ago. In 2008, some areas adjacent to the city were nearly annexed, but then Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey shot down the move.
Carey issued a veto, citing overwhelming opposition from the residents of the proposed annexed areas. Current City Manager Mark Dixson said that despite the resistance of the borough residents, the city at the time didn’t adequately document public concerns.
“We don’t find a lot of public process that occurred in 2008 other than some notes from some hearings,” Dixson said.
He said that the city won’t make the same mistake again.
“I don’t want people in my office yelling and screaming,” Dixson said. “We need to start doing this right and we need to be completely transparent and we need to have everyone involved in the process working to develop a good product in the end.”
Reach Ian Foley at Ian.firstname.lastname@example.org