Local Boundary Commission votes in favor of annexation

Posted: Monday, December 17, 2001

HOMER (AP) -- The state's Local Boundary Commission voted unanimously to allow the city of Homer to annex about four square miles of surrounding territory.

Saturday's decision came after a day and a half of often bitter testimony from residents of the hill country around Homer. Opponents objected to new taxes and regulations that would come with extending city limits. But their main objection was to the annexation process itself.

Opponents, who consider the annexation bid a hostile takeover by the city, complained that state law doesn't give them a vote in the matter.

The city originally sought to add 25 square miles to its boundaries, saying businesses and residents in the subdivisions outside town benefited from city services without sharing the tax burden.

City officials said the larger area was needed to prevent highway strip development outside town and to plan for future decades. But they supported the trimmed-down version.

The area to be annexed adds about 900 people to the existing population of 4,000, according to the commission. It draws in the houses of Skyline Drive behind town and some road frontage east and west of town.

Next stop will be the state Legislature, which has 45 days to overturn the commission's decision.

Opponents vowed to continue fighting, saying the state commission had turned out to be no more sympathetic than the Homer City Council.

''This was a political show trial,'' said Pete Roberts, a spokesman for Citizens Concerned About Annexation.

''We do not make a decision based on a show of hands,'' commission chairman Kevin Waring of Anchorage said at the start of the hearings Friday. ''We listen closely, but ultimately we make our decision on the basis of law.''

The Homer annexation question could have statewide implications.

The controversy helped give rise to new regulations that will require cities in the future to hold local public hearings before petitioning the state. The rules should be in place early next year, Waring said.

A spinoff lawsuit before the Alaska Supreme Court will test whether municipal officials have the same privacy shield for internal documents as the governor.

Annexation opponents sued to get access to the documents used to draw up the city's original petition. They said they needed to know the source of the city's cost and revenue estimates. A state Superior Court judge ruled against them. Their appeal was argued before the Supreme Court last week, with a decision expected next year.

But the biggest effects could be in the Homer area, where some opponents predict a long season of bitterness.

''I have never worked on an issue that has created such animosity,'' said Eileen Becker, who owns property in the area to be annexed.

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