City Annexation Proposal Questions Answered

| December 7, 2013 | 4 Comments

by Jenny Chissus

I’ve done a bit of digging, and want to try to clarify a few things, as there has been quite a bit of confusion.  If you don’t have time for the full scoop, I have put together a quick list of the current status of the annexation issue.

  • The City has NOT instigated, discussed or proposed any action regarding the issue of annexation.
  • Kris Lethin is the sole instigator of this annexation proposal.
  • The mailing from Kris Lethin that had the “City of Seldovia” in the return address was not intended by Kris to mislead anyone regarding the sender of the mailing everyone received this week.
  • The City Council will be discussing this issue at the December 11 meeting, all are welcome.
  • The Local Boundary Commission (LBC) has put the issue on the agenda for their next meeting (time yet to be determined), but it is a discussion item  only, NOT an action item.  Anyone is encouraged to call in or show up to that meeting.  Kris Lethin has asked the LBC to initiate this process on their own, without the normal petition/application process from the city or community.
  • The LBC does not have any action to take at this time, as they have not received a valid petition/application.
  • Once the petition has been accepted for filing (is complete and meets all requirements), the process of annexation is a long one (a year or more, typically) and there are many standards and procedures that must take place prior to any decisions or bringing it to a vote.

Now, that you have been reassured that NOTHING is happening right now, and that NO action is being taken immediately on this issue – take a deep breath! 🙂

For the longer version, and further explanation of the current situation, keep reading!

On Thursday, all property owners within the City of Seldovia received a mailing at the post office, with the return address as follows:

City of Seldovia
Annexation Information
PO Box 264, Seldovia, AK.99663

With this return address, it seemed obvious, that it was sent from the City of Seldovia until opened, when you discovered that it was a letter from Kris Lethin regarding his quest to increase the boundaries of the City of Seldovia.  Along with a map of the boundary area to be considered, a letter to the city property owners and a letter to the Local Boundary Commission (LBC), Kris also included a three page interview regarding this issue, featured last week in the Seldovia Gazette on here.  No matter how you feel about the proposal, my hope is that you will take the opportunity to read the interview – as it does go through quite a bit of detail about Kris’ agenda regarding this issue.

THE CITY IS NOT INVOLVED, AND HAS NOT INITIATED OR ADDRESSED THE ANNEXATION ISSUE.  I had a lengthy conversation with Timothy J. Dillon, Seldovia’s City Manager to discuss the current status of the annexation proposal, and the city’s position.  In spite of the misleading return address information on the face of the flier, the City of Seldovia has not taken ANY action, submitted a petition, nor has it ever discussed the proposal of annexation.  According to the City Manager, the annexation proposal by Kris Lethin has been mentioned during at least two city council meetings – under “public to be heard for items not on the agenda”, but has not been addressed or discussed by the council in any way.  Mr. Dillon wanted to be certain that folks understand that none of these actions have been instigated or endorsed by the City of Seldovia.   In fact,  Mr. Dillon has spoken with the Local Boundary Commission in person when he was in Juneau, and directly expressed that the City is NOT involved in this endeavor.  Due to the fact that Kris’ proposal is going to be discussed by the LBC  in January, the issue has been added to the agenda for the city council meeting next Wednesday on December 11, 2013.  If you want to know more, or wish to express your thoughts to the council – you should attend the meeting on the 11th!

KRIS APOLOGIZED IF FOLKS HAVE FELT MISLED.  I also had a conversation with Kris Lethin, and he genuinely expressed that he hadn’t thought about the labeling of the mailing being misleading, and he confirmed that he is acting on his own, without support of the City of Seldovia.  He expressed regret that there has been misunderstandings by folks in town regarding the city’s involvement in this endeavor.  His hope was that folks would look past the misunderstanding and focus on the real issue at hand.

THE LOCAL BOUNDARY COMMISSION DOES NOT HAVE A VALID APPLICATION OR PETITION UNDER CONSIDERATION.   I was also able to get in touch with Brent Williams, Local Boundary Commission, Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development staff.   He was very generous with his time and thorough with his explanation regarding the current status of Mr. Lethin’s proposal.   Mr. Williams confirmed that the LBC does NOT have a petition to move forward with any action on the annexation issue.  There have been copies of a “sample” petition/application for annexation circulating around, but they are NOT completed, nor valid, and have not been accepted or approved as a viable petition to the LBC.  Mr. Williams let me know that there are basically three ways that the LBC sees annexation proposals presented.  1)  A petition that comes from a municipality.   2) A group of citizens who present a petition with at least 10% of the community signing in support of the annexation. 3) A proposal by an individual to bypass the other two ways, and ask the LBC to initiate and take up the proposal on its own.

THE LBC IS GOING TO DISCUSS THE ISSUE AT NEXT MEETING, BUT IS NOT TAKING ANY ACTION.  Mr. Williams said that it has been a very long time – maybe even close to 50 years ago that a proposal has been submitted by a citizen, and not come to them by the usual means as mentioned above.  He was also adamant to express that the LBC currently doesn’t have anything to build a file upon, as there is no official petition to start their normal process.  Due to Mr. Lethin’s request to have the LBC instigate this process and address the annexation of Seldovia’s surrounding areas, the LBC has agreed to place the issue on the agenda at their next meeting. (Though not yet determined, he expects it to take place in January)  It is ESSENTIAL that everyone understands that the only thing that is happening at that meeting is that Kris’ proposal is being brought before the LBC for discussion, but it is NOT an Action Item – which means that there will be not be any voting or decisions made at that meeting.  He did express that it is important that folks know they can attend the meeting via teleconference or in person, should they want to play a role in the discussion.

THERE IS A LONG ROAD AHEAD, AND MANY STEPS TO THIS PROCESS, ONCE A PETITION IS ACCEPTED.  Mr. Williams sent along a four page sequence of the typical procedures when applying for annexation.  Stage 1 – Filing the Petition/Acceptance of a completed application.  Stage 2 – Public Review and Comment.  Stage 3 – Analysis by LBC Staff and public informational sessions.  Stage 4 – Public Notice and Hearing, Decision and Reconsideration. Stage 5 – Implementation if approved by voters, or the legislature, LBC Staff certifies boundary changes.  Mr. Williams mentioned that the LBC has already received letters from the community regarding the issue, and it is a bit “out of order” because they don’t even have an application/petition to attach them to!  As you can see in the sequence of procedure, in addition to going through at least 2 periods of time (stage 2 and 4) where public input is gathered and public meetings are held, there are at least 8 standards that must be met for the LBC to make a recommendation to approve an annexation proposal.  Mr. Williams said that the process, even if it went smoothly, would take a year or longer.  As you can see below, I’ve included some of the highlights of Article 3 – Standards for Annexation to Cities.  The article is very extensive, (so below is just the main points) but to give you an idea of the many considerations that are made during the process, I’ve included a brief summary of those standards which include:

  1. Need – territory must exhibit a reasonable need for city government
  2. Character – territory must be compatible with annexing city
  3. Resources – The economy within the proposed expanded boundaries of the city must include the human and financial resources necessary to provide essential municipal services on an efficient, cost-effective level.
  4. Population – The population within the proposed expanded boundaries of the city must be sufficiently large and stable to support the extension of city government.
  5. Boundaries – The proposed expanded boundaries of the city must include all land and water necessary to provide the development of essential municipal services on an efficient, cost-effective level.
  6. Best interests of state – In determining whether annexation to a city is in the best interests of the state under AS 29.06.040(a), the commission may consider relevant factors, including whether annexation (1) promotes maximum local self-government, as determined under 3 AAC 110.981;  (2) promotes a minimum number of local government units, as determined under 3 AAC 110.982 and in accordance with art. X, sec. 1, Constitution of the State of Alaska; and  (3) will relieve the state government of the responsibility of providing local services.
  7. Legislative review – Territory that meets the annexation standards specified in 3 AAC 110.090 – 3 AAC 110.135 may be annexed to a city by the legislative review process if the commission also determines that any one of the 9 circumstances exists as stated in  3 AAC 110.140.
  8. Local Action – Territory contiguous to the annexing city, that meets the annexation standards specified in 3 AAC 110.090 – 3 AAC 110.135 and has been approved for local action annexation by the commission, may be annexed to a city by any one of the following actions:  (1) city ordinance if the territory is wholly owned by the annexing city;  (2) city ordinance and a petition signed by all the voters and property owners of the territory;  (3) approval by a majority of votes on the question cast by voters residing in (A) the territory; and  (B) the annexing city

Obviously, there is a lot to the process of qualifying and gathering the necessary approvals, by the LBC, the voters, the legislature and the community as a whole.

However, aside from all of that – as a city and community, we need to address the issue of whether or not this is even a desirable option.  Do we even want to venture down this road?  These are some of the questions I hear being talked about around town:

  • What are the tax advantages/disadvantages to the current city property owners of annexation?
  • What are the tax advantages/disadvantages to the outlying areas should annexation be approved?
  • What is the future of our community, and how does this plan fit into the Comprehensive Plan?
  • Would annexation require water and sewer services out to the Jakolof area?
  • And, if the city services were not offered to those outside of our current city boundaries, would we remain a first class city?
  • If we were to loose our first class city status, due to the fact that we don’t provide services to our entire community, what would that mean for funding, city property ownership, government support of infrastructure and facilities, etc?
  • For those who currently live outside the city limits, would they adapt or be interested in adhering to the city zoning, codes and regulations?  Would there be boundaries where new zones would be created for “rural” areas within the “City”?
  • Would buyers elect NOT to move here because all properties would be within the city?  Would folks move away if this came to pass?
  • Currently outside the city limits – the minimum lot is 40,000 square feet (just under an acre), so if the outlying areas became “city” lots, would those limitations on minimum lot size change? (Lots in the city are as small as .04 acres!)
  • What about a partial annexation?  Perhaps it is worth considering annexing just a select group of parcels that are close to the city limits, and who we could add to our current utilities without a huge burden on the established systems.
  • What are the legal ramifications of changing our city size? Population? Services?
  • There may be folks who would not be interested in living in the city limits – and may choose not to live in the Seldovia area – should the whole area become annexed.

There are many concerns folks have about this issue, the repercussions of annexation – and how it will affect Seldovians in the long term.  We need to get all the facts on the table in order to make informed and intelligent decisions about how to proceed.  See you at the City Council meeting next Wednesday!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: Uncategorized

Comments (4)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Jere Murray says:

    “What are the tax advantages/disadvantages to the current city property owners of annexation?
    “What are the tax advantages/disadvantages to the outlying areas should annexation be approved?”

    Multi-faceted questions.

    I’ll just make a point or two to begin.

    Roads: The KPB maintains very close to eight miles of roads in area proposed for annexation. The city maintains less than three miles of roads within the city limits. The new city’s would take over those borough roads and its road maintenance budget would have to be at least 2 2/3 of the current city road maintenance budget. In reality, as those borough roads are several miles from town, the annual snowfall is generally quite a bit greater than in town and other factors the increase would be greater still. The 1.4 mills we pay to the borough doesn’t cover the cost – we are subsidized by the great oil wealth in the North Kenai area as are all other tax payers in the Road Service Area.

    The new City’s budget will have to replace the monies the State Troopers now pay for police coverage outside the City limits.

    The area outside the city limits now receives “Unincorporated Community Revenue Sharing” from the state. The New City, by virtue of greater population would receive higher “Revenue Sharing” but it may not replace the amount lost through annexation.

    Property tax exemptions allowed by the KPB are greater than those allowed by the City of Seldovia. Folks living on their property outside the present city would loose that extra exemption and have to pay higher tax to the City.

  2. SeldoviaGal says:

    Thanks Jere – I can sure count on you for digging deeper into the details.

    Some of these questions were those expressed to me in conversation about town, and my reasoning for mentioning them in this article was to introduce the fact that there is little information out about the ramifications of pursuing this process of annexation. There are many, many considerations, and besides whether folks like or dislike the idea, there are so many unanswered questions. I appreciate the time you have taken to look into some of these concerns and sharing them with the community!

  3. Jere Murray says:

    Here’s another answer:
    “Would annexation require water and sewer services out to the Jakolof area?”


  4. Jere Murray says:

    Thanks for fixing the CAPTCHA thingie, Jenny

    I’d like to address some of the question you presented. Maybe healthy discussion can start.

    “And, if the city services were not offered to those outside of our current city boundaries, would we remain a first class city?
    “If we were to loose our first class city status, due to the fact that we don’t provide services to our entire community, what would that mean for funding, city property ownership, government support of infrastructure and facilities, etc?”

    Where did these rumors come from? Is there any basis for them?

    I believe Seldovia remains a first class city until changed by formal process.

    I find no provision of law in the Alaska statutes providing for automatic change of classification of an established city for any such failure or for failing to continue to satisfy the stated standards for incorporation. In fact, Seldovia has not satisfied the standards for incorporation as a first class city for a long time and has not automatically lost that classification as a result.

    Reclassification or dissolution may be accomplished by process defined in law.

    Some of the pertinent Alaska Statutes may be found at:

    Put AS 29 in the search panel on the left and start reading …

    Maybe there is something else I’ve missed?

    I may address some of the other questions posed in later comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ERROR: si-captcha.php plugin says captcha_library not found.