Commission recommends Homer limit annex plans

Posted: Sunday, October 07, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- State officials recommended Friday that Homer be allowed to annex three square miles of housing and commercial strip development on the edge of town, but not the entire 25 square miles sought by the city.

Homer's effort to sweep the surrounding semi-rural area into its city limits has roiled politics here for nearly two years. The controversy has also prompted the state to write new rules increasing public participation in future annexation proposals.

The preliminary staff recommendation of the state's Local Boundary Commission is a key step in the Homer annexation process. But there will be more hurdles, including public hearings in December and a decision by the full commission, whose members are appointed by the governor. The Legislature has 45 days to decide whether to overturn the final decision.

The new staff report recommends a ''conservative approach'' for now and a wide-ranging discussion among Homer area residents about further changes.

The 3.3-square-mile recommendation draws in homes behind town and some road frontage east and west of town. It includes most of the commercial development and some of the more heavily settled subdivisions just outside the city limits, a summary said.

Some 875 people would be included in the compromise, compared to 2,700 in the original annexation proposal. The current city of Homer has about 4,000 residents.

''I can't disagree with any of the areas they've recommended,'' said Homer City Manager Ron Drathman, who has spearheaded the city's proposal. He said he wants to see the entire 400-page recommendation, due out this week, to see why the staff excluded some areas sought by the city.

''We were looking at a 20-year plan to begin with and figuring out where we were going,'' Drathman said.

Opponents of annexation said the city should scrap the whole thing and start over, this time bringing people outside the city limits into the discussion.

''We're not willing to compromise, but this is what we expected them to come up with,'' said Abigail Fuller, a spokeswoman with Citizens Concerned About Annexation. ''This shouldn't go through at all because of the way it was handled. The city has been so obnoxious.''

The state's new annexation rules, written by the Local Boundary Commission and awaiting final adoption, would require a municipal government to develop a detailed plan, including discussion of how it would affect non-city residents, and then hold public hearings before submitting the proposal to the state.

The Homer City Council voted in March 2000 to set in motion a formal effort to annex 25 square miles. Approval was up to the Local Boundary Commission, with the Legislature having the final say.

City officials said thousands of area residents were relying on city services such as the fire department but not paying taxes.

Residents of the outlying area were surprised to learn that they would not get a chance to vote on the question. Many complained that moving the city limits would subject them to stiffer regulation and higher taxes.

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