This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted Tuesday night to oppose the city of Soldotna’s plan to annex surrounding areas without giving residents the ability to vote on the issue.
The resolution to oppose annexation without voter approval was adopted as written with a vote of 5-4, according to the assembly clerk.
The resolution came in the wake of testimony from borough residents who oppose the annexation process.
In an Aug. 23 memo, assembly member Norm Blakely and Mayor Charlie Pierce told the assembly that they oppose annexation through the legislative process, and asked the city to seek voter approval.
“The affected property owners are not all voters, but all voters in the existing limits of the city of Soldotna and who reside in the proposed areas for annexation will be impacted by the annexation, if it is approved,” the memo states.
The letter goes on to say that the borough has received comments from residents who have asked the borough to formally oppose the city of Soldotna’s process and allow voter approval.
“We have received numerous requests, publicly and privately, from affected residents asking the borough to oppose this annexation if the voters are not allowed to vote on it,” the memo states. “One young man privately indicated that he went to fight in Iraq for the freedom to vote and now won’t have that freedom on this issue. Many residents in the areas selected for annexation intentionally chose to live outside of the city limits. Those people and many residents of the city want to be able to vote on this question.”
The memo ended by saying the assembly has a duty to consider the issue and convey resident concerns to the city of Soldotna.
State law allows municipalities to expand their boundaries through the legislative review process or through voter approval. The legislative process requires municipalities to send a petition to the Local Boundary Commission, and from there the Local Boundary Commission may present proposed changes to the legislature during the first 10 days of any regular session. Unless the recommendation is denied, any changes will be approved 45 days after the initial presentation or at the end of the session, whichever comes first.
In 2014, the city of Soldotna began gathering information about changing its boundaries through the legislative process.
Earlier this summer the Soldotna City Council voted to draft a petition for the annexation of seven areas surrounding Soldotna. The draft would need to be approved before being sent to the Local Boundary Commission — a process that would not allow residents to vote on the issue.
Tuesday night’s resolution seeks to allow residents who live in the proposed annexation areas to vote on the issue. The borough assembly is formally encouraging the city of Soldotna to seek voter approval on the issue and will be sending copies of the resolution to Mayor Nels Anderson and Soldotna City Council members.