Decision to annex unclear

City of Soldotna still reviewing its options

Posted: Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The city of Soldotna gets a dozen questions a day about annexation, but so far, no decision has been made to annex anything, according to the city manager.

"We're doing a preliminary review with the Planning Commission to determine if annexation will be recommended," is Tom Boedeker's official response to the controversial issue.

The city is looking at four areas of interest, including a small section along Funny River Road next to the Soldotna Municipal Airport, a section along Kalifornsky Beach Road across from the entrance road to Kenai Peninsula College, a section of Ridgeway north of Knight Drive and an unpopulated section encompassing Skyview High School and the Tsalteshi Trails.

The Ridgeway section became an item of discussion at last week's Soldotna City Council meeting when Boedeker brought up a request for information from a sled dog musher who lives in Ridgeway and raises dogs there.

Boedeker told the council Mitchell Michaud requested copies of "every piece of paper" relating to annexation.

The city manager said during the research process as a city looks into annexation, that could amount to hundreds if not thousands of pieces of paper, and told the council the city would need to charge Michaud for photocopies of the documents.

Of particular concern to Michaud are city animal ordinances, which could impact the manner in which he keeps his dogs.

Boedeker said other issues could enter into the mix, including city zoning ordinances and noise ordinances within the city limits.

"We ask that people submit their requests for information in writing, so we know exactly what it is they are requesting," Boedeker said.

"Sometimes people ask questions, and because of the question, we give partial answers.

"It's a tough balance to provide all the information and not provide partial information," Boedeker said.

He said annexation does not always have economic benefits to a city, and if a city chooses to annex an area, a number of steps must be followed before any action is taken.

First, Planning and Zoning considers an area and makes a recommendation to the council. The council then decides whether to pursue annexation.

If the council so decides, the proposal must go before the state-appointed Local Boundary Commission, which looks at what impact annexation would have on the existing city, what impact it would have on the area to be annexed and whether the plan would overburden the city, Boedeker said.

Then a number of methods are in place for the final decision: the state Legislature rules for or against a boundary commission recommendation; a joint petition between the city and the annexed area is presented to the boundary commission; or a vote is taken by residents in an area to be annexed and-or by residents in the existing city.

"It's not a simple process," Boedeker said. "It's a long, drawn out process."

It can take longer than one year before the plan goes before the Legislature.

In addition to bringing more taxpayers into a city, annexation is done for other reasons, he said.

In some instances, people in an area to be annexed have asked for years to have city services such as water, sewer and police protection provided.

At times, a city might want to control development in an area that shares a boundary with the city.

Of the four areas currently being considered, only the Funny River Road section would have a positive economic impact on the city, Boedeker said.

None of the other areas would generate enough in taxes to reimburse the city for the services it would provide, he said.

In a letter to Michaud, Boedeker said the Planning and Zoning Commission has been conducting work sessions on the four areas, and Ridgeway will be discussed at a meeting slated for Sept. 13.

Boedeker enclosed an information packet for Michaud and told him additional documents would cost five cents for black-and-white copies and 25 cents for color.

Michaud was invited to attend the 6 p.m. session in city hall. Notices also were to be mailed to all affected property owners.

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