Frequently Asked Questions
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| "City incorporation" means
first class, or home rule city government to provide services
at the community level. Distinctions
among the three types of cities are addressed in Local
Government in Alaska.
Incorporation requires a big
commitment of time and other resources. Before any decision
is made to begin work on incorporation, a lot of thought should
be given to the need for a city government and the process
involved, particularly if the community is within an organized
borough. This chapter provides an overview of basic information
about city incorporation. Incorporation is a complex matter
that cannot be covered completely in this brief overview.
This overview does, however, provide information and links
to applicable law, additional publications, and staff available
to provide assistance on incorporation.
Boundary Commission (LBC) staff within the Department
of Community and Economic Development (Commerce) are available
to provide technical assistance.
What options are available for city incorporation?
There are three types of city government in
Alaska (second class, first class, and home rule). Each class
of city government has broad powers (AS
29.35) and every city also has certain general obligations
(e.g., annual audits or financial reports, regular elections,
codification of ordinances, regular meetings of the city council,
The powers and duties of a city, particularly
a home-rule or first class city, are greatly affected by whether
it is inside or outside an organized borough. For example,
state law requires each home rule and first class city outside
an organized borough to operate a city school. (AS
29.35.260) In contrast, no city within a borough may operate
a school district. Additionally, each home rule and first
class city outside an organized borough must exercise the
powers of planning, platting, and land use regulation. In
comparison, cities within boroughs may exercise planning,
platting, and land use regulation powers if the borough delegates
those powers to the city. (AS
29.35.250) Beyond the noted requirements for education,
planning, platting, and land use regulation, state law does
not require cities to provide any particular service or facility.
It is important to note that incorporation of a home
rule city requires petitioners to prepare a charter, which is the equivalent of a
local government constitution. Writing a charter requires more community expertise
and commitment than what is required for incorporation of a first class or second
Who can petition to incorporate?
A city government is customarily created by
a petition to the Local Boundary Commission (LBC) from voters
within a bona fide community as defined in 3 AAC 110.990 (See
Title 3 in the Alaska
Administrative Code). Although the state can create city
governments on its own initiative, it has never done so.
State law (AS
29.05.011) requires that a community must have at least
400 permanent residents to incorporate as a home rule or first
class city. A petition to incorporate a home rule or first
class city must be signed by at least 50 resident voters,
or 15% of the number of voters who voted in the area during
the last general election, whichever is greater.
There is no minimum population requirement for
incorporation of a second class city; however, the incorporation petition must be
signed by at least 25 resident voters, or 15% of the number of voters who voted in
the area during the last general election, whichever is greater.
Are there limits on the incorporation
of a city?
29.05.021 and 3 AAC 110.010 (See Alaska
Administrative Code) prohibit the formation of a new city
government if the needed services can be provided by annexation
to an existing city, or if the needed services can be provided
by an organized borough. Residents of a community within a
borough who wish to consider forming a city government should
talk with borough officials on the matter.
What are the "pros" and "cons" of incorporation?
It is important to carefully look at the pros and cons
of incorporation before beginning any incorporation effort. The advantages and disadvantages
of forming a new city government will vary depending on the community and the type of city
proposed for incorporation. Generally, people supporting incorporation stress that a city
would provide greater local control and the means to provide essential local services.
People against incorporation generally focus on the
possibility of new taxes and fees among the potential problems. Also, if the
community is within an organized borough, critics frequently stress that the borough
can provide any needed services and that a city would just be an unnecessary
additional layer of government.
Are there criteria that guide
the development of a petition?
29.05.011 and 3 AAC 110.005-3 AAC 110.042.005 provide
standards that must be met in order to incorporate. The Local
Boundary Commission will use these same criteria to make a
decision on the petition. These criteria or standards should
be carefully reviewed when deciding whether to incorporate.
If the potential petitioners decide to incorporate, the criteria
should be used to guide the development of the petition.
What boundaries are appropriate for a new city?
City governments are community-based municipalities
(as opposed to boroughs, which are regional municipalities). As such, their
boundaries are limited to much smaller areas. Legal standards for city boundaries
are provided in AS 29.05.011(a)(2) and 3 AAC 110.040.
Are state grants available to study the feasibility
and need for a new city government?
No. State funding is not available for studies
of a potential city government.
Does the state provide technical
assistance to citizens who wish to incorporate?
staff will provide certain assistance to potential petitioners.
Assistance includes providing petition forms and sample successful
proposals; information on policy issues and technical matters;
and direction on sources of information needed to complete
a petition. While the state can provide some assistance, the
burden of preparing a proper petition remains with the petitioners.
Does the state provide technical assistance to
citizens that are opposed to incorporation?
staff will also provide assistance to any
person or group that wants to comment on a proposal. Assistance might include
providing sample responsive briefs filed on previous petitions, discussion on policy
issues, guidance on technical matters, and direction on where to get information
needed to complete a responsive brief opposing a proposal.
Can a petition be changed after it is filed?
Yes, the petition may be changed by the petitioner.
The LBC can also change it or add conditions to an incorporation proposal following
a public hearing. Ideally, however, with careful planning and proper consultation
before filing a petition, the need to make changes can be avoided. Changing a
petition may, under certain circumstances, cause delays in the consideration of the
How long does it take to
Usually it takes several months (in some cases
a year or more depending on the local effort) to prepare a
proper petition. Possible petitioners are encouraged to work
closely with the LBC
staff in developing a petition. Once a petition is completed
and the necessary signatures have been gathered, the petition
is filed with the Local Boundary Commission. The process for
review of the proposal by the LBC typically takes one year
or longer. If the commission approves the petition, the state
will conduct a local election on the matter. The process for
the incorporation election typically involves about three
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A community may incorporate
a city government if it meets the standards in the law (AS
29.05.011, AS 29.05.021, AS 29.05.100, 3 AAC 110.005-3
AAC 110.042, and 3 AAC 110.900-3 AAC 110.980) (See Title 3
in the Alaska
Among the standards is the requirement to show the
need for a new city. If the proposed city is within an organized borough, the need
for a new city is more difficult to show. The law (AS 29.05.021) does not allow the
creation of a new city within an organized borough if essential city services can be
provided more efficiently or more effectively by an existing organized borough on an
areawide basis, non-areawide basis, or through an existing borough service area.
That limitation reflects the fact that local
government principles in Alaska's constitution view a borough
with no city governments as the ideal
structure for delivery of local services. The drafters of
the Local Government Article of Alaska's Constitution "viewed the long-term relationships between the borough and the city
as a gradual evolution to unified government." (Final Report on Borough
Government, p. 17, Alaska Legislative Council and the Local
The express purpose of the Local Government
Article is to "provide for maximum local self-government with a minimum of local government
units, and to prevent duplication of tax-levying jurisdictions." (Alaska
Constitution, Article X, Section 1) The Alaska Supreme Court
held with respect to
combining city and borough governments through unification
that: "Unification is consistent with the purpose
expressed in article X, section 1 of minimizing the number of local government units."
It is worth mentioning that the Task Force
on Governmental Roles, established by the 1991 Legislature
under SCS CS HCR 17 to
examine state policies regarding local government concluded
as follows: "Unification of borough and city administrations
should be encouraged wherever possible to provide for more efficient and cost-effective
Alaskans have embraced the constitutional
principles encouraging the combination of city and borough
governments. Consider, for example,
that in 1970, about half of the people who lived within an
organized borough also lived within a city government.
Today, the figure is about 18% - the number of
Alaskans within both a city and borough declined by approximately
two-thirds since 1970.
Another limitation in state law on the creation of a
new city concerns the possibility of receiving services through annexation to an
existing city. If annexation is viable, a new city cannot be formed.
In addition to need for a city government, a
proposed city must also have enough of an economy to support the proposed city
government. Also, the population of the community must be large and stable enough.
A community must have at least 400 permanent residents to be approved for
incorporation as a first class or home-rule city. The boundaries of the proposed
city must also meet the standards in the law.
Residents of unincorporated communities in the
unorganized borough often have an easier test to show a need for a city government.
Constitution - Article X
- Section 1. Purpose and Construction,
local self-government, local government units.
- Section 2. Local self-government
powers, taxing authority.
- Section 5. Service Areas,
incorporation to encompass proposed service area.
- Section 7. Cities.
- Section 12. Boundaries.
- Section 14. Agency to advise
and assist local governments.
29.05.011. Incorporation of a city, incorporation standards.
- AS 29.05.021. Limitations
on incorporation of a city, annexation.
- AS 29.05.060. Petition, required
information, maps, proposed operating budget, signatures,
- AS 29.05.070. Review, deficient
- AS 29.05.080. Investigation,
Commerce informational meetings, notice.
- AS 29.05.090. Hearing, public
- AS 29.05.100. Decision, LBC
amendment/conditions, decision criteria, appeal under the
Administrative Procedures Act.
- AS 29.05.110. Incorporation
election, notification to director of elections, election
on incorporation, municipal officials, voter qualifications,
- AS 29.05.120. Election of
initial officials, nomination form, elections supervisor,
terms in office.
- AS 29.05.130. Integration
of special districts and service areas, time limit, fees,
- AS 29.05.140. Transition,
time limit; effect of ordinances, rules, and procedures;
- AS 29.05.150. Challenge of
legality, time limit.
- AS 29.05.180. Organization
grants, disbursement timeline.
- AS 44.33.810. Local Boundary
Commission, appointment. (See Current
- AS 44.33.812. Powers and
- AS 44.33.814. Meetings and
- AS 44.33.816. Minutes and
- AS 44.33.818. Notice of Public
- AS 44.33.820. Quorum.
- AS 44.33.822. Boundary Change.
- AS 44.33.824. Expenses.
- AS 44.33.826. Hearings on
- AS 44.33.828. When boundary
changes take effect.
Alaska Administrative Code)
- 3 AAC 110.005. Community.
- 3 AAC 110.010. Need, factors
considered in determining need, limitation on incorporation.
- 3 AAC 110.020. Resources,
factors considered in determining resources available to
provide essential public services.
- 3 AAC 110.030. Population,
factors considered in determining population characteristics.
- 3 AAC 110.040. Boundaries,
factors considered in determining land and water needed
for essential public services, large geographic and unpopulated
ares, overlapping boundaries.
- 3 AAC 110.042. Best interests
of state, factors considered in best interest determination
- 3 AAC 110.400. Applicability.
- 3 AAC 110.410. Petitioners
authorized petitioners, signature requirements.
- 3 AAC 110.420. Petition,
form, supporting brief, exhibits.
- 3 AAC 110.425. Legislative
review annexation petitions.
- 3 AAC 110.430. Consolidation
- 3 AAC 110.440. Technical
review of petitions, Commerce review, deficient petition.
- 3 AAC 110.450. Notice of
petition, time limit and method for providing notice.
- 3 AAC 110.460. Service of
petition, recipients and method of delivery, availability
of all petition documents for public review.
- 3 AAC 110.470. Proof of notice
- 3 AAC 110.480. Responsive
briefs and written comments, filing with Commerce, affidavit
of delivery to petitioner.
- 3 AAC 110.490. Reply brief,
filing with Commerce, affidavit of delivery to respondent.
- 3 AAC 110.500. Limitations
on advocacy, adherence to regulations, commission contact
with interested parties.
- 3 AAC 110.510. Informational
sessions, Commerce determination of adequate public information
- 3 AAC 110.520. Departmental
public meetings, notice, affidavit of posting, presiding
officer, meeting summary, postponement, relocation.
- 3 AAC 110.530. Departmental
report, draft review and comment.
- 3 AAC 110.540. Amendments
and withdrawal, time limit, petition signatures, notice,
- 3 AAC 110.550. Commission
public hearing, notice, public service announcement, postponement,
- 3 AAC 110.560. Commission
hearing procedures, presiding officer, commission quorum,
limit on comments, witnesses, sworn testimony, timely submission
- 3 AAC 110.570. Decisional
meeting, time limit, commission quorum, change to comply
with law, minutes, statement of considerations, decision,
- 3 AAC 110.580. Reconsideration,
time limit, denial or acceptance of request.
- 3 AAC 110.590. Certain local
action annexations, applicable regulations.
- 3 AAC 110.600. Local action/local
option elections, election by director of elections under
AS 15, election by municipality.
- 3 AAC 110.610. Legislative
review, amendment to consider as local action/option procedure,
legislative review of commission decision.
- 3 AAC 110.620. Judicial review,
appeal and judicial review in accordance with Administrative
- 3 AAC 110.630. Effective
date and certification, Voting Rights Act approval, certification
of election, legislative review deadline, certificate of
- 3 AAC 110.640. Scheduling,
chairperson order setting/amending schedule, timeline, postponement.
- 3 AAC 110.650. Resubmittals
and reversals, denial of previous similar petition, request
for reversal of decision.
- 3 AAC 110.660. Purpose of
procedural regulations, relaxation or suspension of procedural
regulation, commission discretion, guidelines.
- 3 AAC 110.900. Transition,
submission of transition plan; assumption of powers, duties,
responsibilities, assets, and liabilities; time limit on
execution of plan; approved agreement.
- 3 AAC 110.910. Statement
- 3 AAC 110.920. Determination
of community, factors considered in determining whether
the term community applies.
- 3 AAC 110.970. Determination
of essential city or borough services, guidelines.
- 3 AAC 110.980. Determination
of best interests of the state, guidelines.
- 3 AAC 110.990. Definitions.
select "Landscape" in