Public Works Director Steve Bonebreak brought more chairs into the Soldotna City Council chambers Wednesday as residents from in and around the city stood in the doorway and crowded the city hall foyer to speak.
Approximately half aired comments and concerns relating to the cemetery issue, the other half weighed in on a petition that would add approximately two square miles to the city of Soldotna.
"We do have the maximum amount of chairs we can have in this room," said Mayor David Carey. "But everyone certainly has the right to participate fully."
Resolution 2008-01 would incorporate 2.17 square miles into the city limits. The four areas the city is petitioning for annexation include 305 acres between the Kenai River and Funny River Road from the Sterling Highway to Soldotna Municipal Airport; 317 acres from the Soldotna post of the Alaska State Troopers to Slikok Creek; 276 acres in the Ridgeway area; and 478 acres from the intersection of the Sterling Highway and Kalifornsky Beach Road south to include Skyview High School.
The council invited the public to not only comment on the annexation itself, but weigh in on whether the public's opportunity to speak was sufficient. Tom Boedeker, city manager, said the filing of a petition of annexation required at least one public hearing. He said Soldotna is offering two before the petition will be sent to the state Boundary Commission. The next hearing will be Feb. 13.
Even though one person who owns property in the area to be annexed was for the resolution, the majority spoke out in opposition, many saying they bought their property specifically because it was outside city boundaries. Many residents contend they would have to pay higher taxes for sewer, water and other utilities they already have provided for themselves.
"(We have) no need for the Soldotna city government," said Dixie Beall, who owns property off of Funny River Road.
Beall said the city hasn't grown so she can't understand why Soldotna is looking to expand its boundaries. Most of her neighbors have their own wells and septic tanks so they're not in need of sewer or water services, she said.
"We're not needing to be in the city," she said.
Analisa Selden, a resident living within city limits, asked if the city planned to pave the roads in the areas to be annexed at no cost to the homeowners. Boedeker said the city has no immediate plans to pave roads or install water and sewer.
"There is no provision that anything will be done differently," he said.
Shirley Henley, a Kenai resident who owns approximately 200 acres in the Ridgeway area, was the only person who supported the resolution. Approximately 25 percent of her property was in the area to be annexed, but she said as long as the city removes an "offensive and odorous dump site" adjacent to her property, she's happy with the resolution.
"Removal of the site would be well worth the additional taxes," she said.
Rick Oelrich asked the council whether the resolution could go through if the residents were against it. Having lived off of Base Road near K-Beach for 35 years, he said being incorporated into city limits wouldn't benefit him at all. He said he lives out there because it is remote and residents outside the city limits could own farm animals.
"I don't think I will get anything for what they'll charge me," Oelrich said.
Boedeker said when the two public comment periods are over, the Boundary Commission will head to Soldotna to hold its own public hearing in order to find out whether the annexation process was done legally. The Boundary Commission may modify the resolution or veto it altogether. If the commission passes the resolution it will be up to the state Legislature to approve or disapprove the annexation, he said.
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at email@example.com.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.