By examining annexation, the city of Soldotna is hoping to keep its promise of being more inclusive.
Earlier this year, city officials assured the public that any future actions related to the topic of annexation would be transparent. To educate the public, the city updated its website this week to contain information for people wanting to learn about the prospect of Soldotna expanding its borders.
The city has yet to make the decision on whether it would like to annex any land, according to the website. City officials, however, would like to proceed with studies on the subject to determine if annexing borough land would be prudent from a city standpoint.
“We’re going to be methodical and inclusive,” said Mark Dixson, Soldotna city manager.
The updated website comes in advance of Soldotna’s next city council meeting on April 22. An ordinance will be introduced at the meeting that, if passed, would allow the city to study the implications of acquiring land currently outside the city limits.
Austin Johnson, Soldotna planning and GIS technician, wrote in an email that the comprehensive website is the result of numerous people inquiring about the city’s intent.
“It’ll also be a central place where folks can go to learn about upcoming meetings relating to annexation, see what meetings have already happened, and get notes and agendas from those meetings,” Johnson wrote.
The new site includes an array of resources for people who want to learn more about the process. It includes answers to frequently asked questions, as well as explanations as to why the city is exploring the idea and when meetings on the subject will take place. Maps and information regarding the city’s failed annexation attempt in 2008 have also been published.
John Czarnezki, city planner, said he has received a little more than a dozen calls from people inquiring about annexation. He said that he has heard from people wondering why the city was going to annex their land, when in fact, the city has yet to agree on whether it would like to annex land, let alone which specific areas would be annexed. He said that the city is trying to do its best to provide pertinent and reliable information.
“There seems to be a fair amount of misinformation out there,” he said. “I’m really happy that people are calling to get good information and to find out what’s going on. We’re not trying to hide anything.”
Dixson said that he has heard from several borough residents interested in joining the city. He said that by joining the city, they would benefit by having lower property taxes, more police protection, and access to city utilities.
“We’re looking at places where we can grow the city for people who want to do business in the city and for people who want to live in the city,” Dixson said.
Dixson said there are two primary reasons a city would want to annex land — it needs either money, or land.
Soldotna has been expanding in recent years, however, other areas in the community have outpaced the city in terms of growth, which is the reason why annexing land is being considered, according to the website.
“We believe the demand for land in our area will continue, and that growth — both inside the city and outside — is inevitable,” according to the website. “Annexation is not the cause of this growth, but one strategy our community can use to efficiently plan for services in areas that demand them.”
Some in the community remain skeptical of the city’s actions.
Brian Olson, borough resident and active president of Borough Residents Against Annexation, said that his movement to prevent future annexation is growing.
“We don’t want to be annexed,” Olson said. “I don’t care what the promises are.”
Olson’s group held its first meeting last month, and plans to hold another meeting on April 30. He said his group would soon be electing positions in order to better educate the public about the potential implications of annexation.
Olson claims the city hasn’t been completely transparent. He said a 12-member annexation advisory committee was selected without a public process.
Dixson said the committee was formed to give opinions and recommendations about annexation.
He said that the names of the advisory committee along with their notes and recommendations are published on the city’s website. Dixson said the decision for the committee to provide input to the city before the council agreed to proceed with annexation studies was intentional.
“We wanted them to have no influence from (the city) or the anti-annexation people,” Dixson said.
One of Olson’s other concerns is that the city could impose unwanted restrictions.
“We like where we’re living,” Olson said. “We chose to live where we live because we have freedoms they don’t have in the city.”
For more information, go to: http://soldotna.org/government/annexation
Reach Ian Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org.