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City of Kodiak to move forward with annexation process

Map of Kodiak’s Service Area 1, highlighted in blue. (source: Kodiak Island Borough)
Map of Kodiak’s Service Area 1, highlighted in blue. (source: Kodiak Island Borough)

The City of Kodiak is looking to significantly increase its size and population as it considers annexing two nearby areas within the next year.

One area under consideration is a 2 square mile stretch from Gibson Cove to Swampy Acres, which would place the city limits up against property owned by the US Coast Guard.

But the primary focus of the annexation discussion is Service Area 1. Service Area 1, which lies mostly on the north side of the city, stretches roughly from Mission Beach to Fort Abercrombie, including areas from Island Lake to Beaver Lake.

Deputy City Manager Josie Bahnke (BAIN-kee) presented to the City Council why Service Area 1 may be ready for annexation.

“Council also identified annexation north where the city provides utilities currently, which is Service Area 1, in an area that the city attorney calls a ‘no brainer.’ We already have existing services out there.”

Annexation is the expansion of a city boundary to include more territory. It is a way for a city to extend city services, regulation, voting privileges and taxing authority to an area.

For the past two years, annexation has been at pre-planning phase in the city. City officials have identified annexation as way to respond to growth that has already occurred just outside city limits, and to strategically look forward to the future and long term fiscal sustainability of the community.

However, with the city just now in the planning stages, they do not know yet how many Service Area 1 residents would be affected by annexation.

“I would estimate about 1,000 households. I don’t know how many people that would be.”

These 1,000 households would be added to the city’s current 2,000 households.

In Kodiak, the average size of a household is nearly 3 people, higher than the state’s average of 2.7.

If annexed, then, Service Area 1 could increase the city’s population by 50%, from 6000 to 9000. Annexation of both Service Area 1 and the Swampy Acres area would also double the city’s current geographic size of 5 and a half square miles.

The city of Kodiak is the 17th most populous census area in Alaska. If annexation is approved, Kodiak would likely jump into the top ten. Out of Alaska’s incorporated cities, Kodiak city could jump into the top five most populous cities, with Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, and Wasilla.

To make annexation a reality, the city has several steps to undergo. The first is to consider a resolution to hire someone to conduct an annexation economic analysis and run a public information campaign beginning at the end of this year. The City has budgeted $125,000 to conduct a feasibility study and public engagement process.

“Once we get to March/April 2021 and Council has been presented with a final annexation study and plan, the Council would adopt an ordinance and prepare a petition to file with Local Boundaries Commission. This could take up to a year.

How annexation will ultimately be decided will likely be up to voters inside city limits and in the proposed areas to be annexed. However, there is a legislative review process that is also being considered.

“Process exists, it’s in the state constitution, and it exists so boundary decisions about a municipality can be made at a level where area-wide or statewide needs can be taken into account. And changes to boundaries can be made objectively based on merit and not on politics. So there is another avenue to get to annexation.”

The Kodiak community has seen significant growth and development since it was incorporated in 1940, but the official city limits have remained mostly unchanged. In its history, the city has experienced a series of successful and failed attempts to annex neighboring territory. In 1960, the city successfully annexed several islands, including Near Island, but after the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, the attempt to annex Island Lake and Spruce Cape was defeated at the polls.

The 1970s also brought failed attempts to annex Spruce Cape again, plus Mill Bay and Monashka Bay. After the successful annexations of the municipal airport and the Safeway/Walmart tract in the 1980s, the city tried to annex Service Area 1 in 1999, but was rejected by voters.

But city officials believe the time has come again for annexation.

“There are also a great number reasons for that that we’ve built out in the white paper that I won’t go over. Fairness and equity seem to be a big one. And also to secure tax based and revenue sources, manage growth, as I’ve mentioned. And to make the community whole.”