This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
Borough Residents Against Annexation group met Thursday night to update attendees on the current efforts to stop annexation and to elect new leadership to the group’s board.
Since the group last met, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed a resolution on Sept. 4 that opposed the city of Soldotna from annexing adjacent land using the legislative review method and supported the city to hold a vote of affected areas.
At the Sept. 12 Soldotna City Council meeting, there was no formal response to the borough resolution.
“I think we’ll just let it ride out,” Mayor Nels Anderson said at the city council meeting. “I don’t think it’s an issue we need to particularly respond to at this stage.”
Assuming the city will continue to draft their petition to the Local Boundary Commission, the group discussed where they should focus their energy now.
Former president of the group, Brian Olson, led the meeting. He said the resolution passed by the borough would carry some weight when and if the Local Boundary Commission comes to Soldotna to review the city’s annexation petition.
Matthew Lay, owner and operator of Big Dog Custom 4×4 and Auto, will be taking over for Olson as the group’s president. Lay has testified at several meetings against annexation. His business and home are in an area of potential annexation.
The group formed more than three years ago when the city of Soldotna was looking more seriously at annexing adjacent areas. Olson said it formed as a grassroots group, comprised of friends and neighbors with a common issue.
“Our only issue is we wanted the city to go the local option with a vote, and not with the legislative review process,” Olson told the group on Thursday night. “We think that’s a fair way to do it. You get to vote on something if you’re impacted.”
Members of the group said they felt the legislative review process was old fashioned and would like to see the law amended.
“It was great in the early days of the state, but these days things are pretty well defined as what’s what,” Olson said.
On June 13, the city of Soldotna unanimously passed a resolution to draft a petition to the Local Boundary Commission as the first step towards annexing adjacent areas. In that resolution, the council decided to go towards annexing seven of the original nine areas, some of which were modified. The administration is working on the draft as well as a transition plan that will address questions related to city services in affected areas.
Once the draft is complete it will be presented to the Soldotna City Council. Then, if it’s approved, it will be sent to the Local Boundary Commission for consideration.
If the petition is submitted to the Local Boundary Commission, members of the public will be welcomed for public comment. If the Local Boundary Commission approves the city’s petition, the decision to annex will be in the hands of state lawmakers at the following legislative session.
Olson said the issue of annexation should be on the minds of all borough residents, not just those in the seven affected areas.
“Annexation will affect all borough residents from a financial standpoint,” Olson said. “If Save U More gets annexed, you won’t be paying (a 3 percent sales tax), you’ll be paying a (6 percent sales tax). It will impact you whether you live out in Nikiski, or wherever. It’s going to affect your pocketbook.”
Whatever the next steps the city or state takes towards annexation, Olson said the group will continue to stand for their original mission.
“No matter what happens, we’re still going to be a voice against annexation,” Olson said. “We’re all in this together.”