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Annexation to a City Government

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Introduction

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"Annexation to a city" means to expand the city's boundaries to include more territory. Annexation results in the extension of city services, regulation, voting privileges, and taxing authority to the annexed area.

There are seven methods available to cities in Alaska to annex territory. (These are explained in more detail in the Frequently Asked Questions below). In most cases, the area to be annexed must be next to the boundaries of the city that is doing the annexation. State law requires certain standards and procedures be followed for annexation.

Annexation requires a big commitment of time and other resources. Before any decision is made to begin work on annexation, a lot of thought should be given to the need for annexation and the method to use. This chapter provides an overview of basic information about city annexation, however, annexation is a complex matter that cannot be covered completely in this brief overview. This overview provides information and links to applicable law, additional publications, and staff available to provide assistance on annexation.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Who can provide information regarding annexation to cities?

Local Boundary Commission (LBC) staff within the Department of Community and Economic Development (Commerce) are available to provide technical assistance, petition forms, and sample annexation materials to anyone interested in petitioning or responding to a petition and to other interested parties.

If an individual or group does not want annexation, does the state assist them also?

Yes. LBC staff will provide information about submitting comments in the form of a responsive brief. This allows any interested party to be identified as a "respondent" in the annexation proceeding. Being identified as a respondent results in a higher level of notice about action on the annexation and provides certain procedural rights at the Local Boundary Commission's public hearing.

Are there other choices available besides annexation?

Yes, there may be other choices that meet the needs and goals of the city better than annexation. For example, to equalize the burden and reduce liabilities a city could stop all services provided by the city outside its boundaries. Other alternatives include: (1) increasing property and other taxes within the existing city boundaries, (2) establishing borough (organized or unorganized) service areas to provide services, and (3) charging or increasing user fees for non-residents.

Who can start an annexation petition?

A petition for annexation may be started by:

  • a city;
  • a borough;
  • a regional educational attendance area;
  • a coastal resource service area;
  • at least 10% of the resident registered voters of a city, borough, regional educational attendance area, or coastal resource service area;
  • at least 10% of the resident registered voters of the area proposed for annexation;
  • the state legislature;
  • the Commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (Commerce);
  • a party designated by the Local Boundary Commission.

Is there a limit on the size of the territory that a city may annex?

There is no specific size limit. There are however certain standards (3 AAC 110.090-3 AAC 110.130) that apply having to do with population, expected growth, and ability to effectively provide services, among others. Cities are community-based municipal governments rather than geographically based. The area within the average Alaskan city is about 27 square miles. The Alaska Administrative Code (3 AAC 110.130) generally prohibits annexation by a city of entire geographic regions or large unpopulated areas and requires a good reason and explanation of the need for the territory identified for annexation.

What is the procedure for annexation?

State law establishes procedures for seven different types of annexation. These relate to:

  • annexation of adjoining municipally-owned property;
  • annexation of adjoining property upon unanimous consent of the owners of that property and the voters who live within the area to be annexed;
  • annexation by election among voters in the area proposed for annexation;
  • annexation by election among the combined voters of the annexing municipality and the area proposed for annexation;
  • annexation by election by voters of the annexing municipality, if the area proposed for annexation is uninhabited;
  • step annexation (city only);
  • annexation by legislative review.

Some of the methods of annexation are less complex than others and may be acted upon by the Commission in a relatively short period. Others are more complex and can require a year or more for the Commission to consider. The seven annexation types are summarized as follows:

  • Annexation of Adjoining City-Owned Property. City owned property that is next to the boundaries of that city may be annexed. The city council must adopt an ordinance and then petition the Local Boundary Commission.
  • Annexation Upon Unanimous Consent of Owners and Resident Voters. An area next to a city may be annexed if all of the property owners and all of the voters living in the area proposed for annexation approve. The city council must adopt an ordinance and then petition the Local Boundary Commission.
  • Annexation Through Election by Voters in the Area Proposed for Annexation. An area may be annexed, upon approval by the Local Boundary Commission, if an election is held and a majority of the voters living in the territory to be annexed vote to approve it. Only those living in the territory approved for annexation may vote on the proposal. To pass, the proposition must be approved by a majority of those voting on the question.
  • Annexation Through Election by Aggregate Voters of the Annexing City and the Area Proposed for Annexation. An area may be annexed, upon approval by the Local Boundary Commission, if an election is held and a majority of the voters living in both areas approve it.
  • Annexation Through Election by Voters of the Annexing City, if the Area Proposed for Annexation is Uninhabited. An uninhabited area may be annexed, upon approval by the Local Boundary Commission, if an election is held and a majority of the voters living in the annexing city vote to approve it. The proposition must be approved by a majority of those voting on the question.
  • Step Annexation. Territory next to a city may be annexed to a city gradually over a period not longer than five years. Step annexation requires approval by the Local Boundary Commission and the voters of the area proposed for annexation. In addition, it requires review and tacit approval by the State legislature. Legislative review is initiated when the LBC files a recommendation for the annexation with the legislature. Such recommendations may be filed only during the first 10 days of a regular session of the legislature. The recommendation is rejected only if the legislature adopts a concurrent resolution to deny the action within 45 days of the date that it was filed. Otherwise, the proposal is tacitly approved by the legislature, meaning that it is approved unless the legislature specifically denies it within the 45-day period.
  • Annexation by Legislative Review. An area may be annexed without approval by the voters or property owners under the legislative review process. Such proposals require approval by the Local Boundary Commission as well as review and tacit approval by the State legislature. Legislative review is initiated in the manner described for step annexation. Again, the recommendation receives tacit approval from the legislature unless that body adopts a concurrent resolution to deny the action within 45 days of the date that the Commission's recommendation concerning the matter was filed.

How do we decide what method of annexation to use?

If all owners of property and registered voters in an area want annexation, then annexation by unanimous consent of owners and resident voters would likely be the annexation method to use. If there are enough voters in the area proposed for annexation to conduct an election, and it is reasonable to think that a majority of the voters will support annexation, then annexation by local election might be the best method. If there is a strong public need for annexation, but it appears that most voters in the area would not approve the change, consider using the legislative review method or areawide election method.

What is tacit approval?

Tacit approval means the action is approved unless specific steps are taken to deny the action within a set period of time. Legislative review is initiated when the LBC files a recommendation for the annexation with the legislature. Such recommendations may be filed only during the first 10 days of a regular session of the legislature. The recommendation is rejected only if the legislature adopts a concurrent resolution to deny the action within 45 days of the date that it was filed. Otherwise, the proposal is tacitly approved by the legislature.

Narrative

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Annexation is a constitutionally-established means of fulfilling the purpose of Article X, Section 1 of Alaska's Constitution, which is: "... to provide for maximum local self-government with a minimum of local government units, and to prevent duplication of tax-levying jurisdictions." There are three elements to an annexation decision by the Local Boundary Commission:

  • the process defined by law and regulations;
  • the standards in law; and
  • the facts as documented in the official record of the proceedings.

Alaska's Constitution (Art. X, § 12) and statutes provide that corporate boundaries of cities may be adjusted. This allows cities to adjust for growth and changing jurisdictional needs and conditions. See " Planning and Preparing for Proposals for Annexation to Cities" and "Procedures for City Annexation" for more information on the annexation process.

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Additional Resources

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Publications:

Internet links:

Applicable Laws

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Alaska Constitution - Article X

  • Section 1. Purpose and Construction, local self-government, local government units.
  • Section 5. Annexation of proposed service area.
  • Section 7. Cities.
  • Section 12. Boundaries, authority for tacit legislative approval, authority for LBC to establish procedures for boundary adjustment.
  • Section 14. Agency to advise and assist local governments.

Alaska Statutes (See Current Alaska Statutes)

  • AS 29.05.021. Limitations on incorporation of city, service provided through annexation.
  • AS 29.06.040. Local Boundary Commission, authority to review, amend, accept boundary changes; appeal under administrative procedures act; tacit approval; authority to establish procedures for annexation; election on annexation question.
  • AS 29.06.050. Annexation of Military Reservation.
  • AS 44.33.810. Local Boundary Commission, appointment. (See Current Alaska Statutes)
  • AS 44.33.812. Powers and Duties.
  • AS 44.33.814. Meetings and Hearings.
  • AS 44.33.816. Minutes and Records.
  • AS 44.33.818. Notice of Public Hearings.
  • AS 44.33.820. Quorum.
  • AS 44.33.822. Boundary Change, majority vote.
  • AS 44.33.824. Expenses.
  • AS 44.33.826. Hearings on boundary changes.
  • AS 44.33.828. When boundary changes take effect.

Alaska Regulations (See The Alaska Administrative Code)

  • 3 AAC 110.090. Needs of the territory, factors considered in reasonable need determination, limitation on annexation.
  • 3 AAC 110.100. Character, factors considered in determining compatibility.
  • 3 AAC 110.110. Resources, factors considered in determining resources available to provide essential public services.
  • 3 AAC 110.120. Population, factors considered in determining population characteristics.
  • 3 AAC 110.130. Boundaries, factors considered in determining land and water needed for providing essential public services, non-contiguous and large unpopulated areas, overlapping boundaries.
  • 3 AAC 110.135. Best interests of state, factors considered in determining state's best interest.
  • 3 AAC 110.140. Legislative review, factors considered in legislative review annexation.
  • 3 AAC 110.150. Local action, methods of annexation by local action.
  • 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 of petitions.
  • 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 and service.
  • 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 sessions, affidavit.
  • 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, service.
  • 3 AAC 110.550. Commission public hearing, notice, public service announcement, postponement, relocation.
  • 3 AAC 110.560. Commission hearing procedures, presiding officer, commission quorum, limit on comments, witnesses, sworn testimony, timely submission of documents.
  • 3 AAC 110.570. Decisional meeting, time limit, commission quorum, change to comply with law, minutes, statement of considerations, decision, affidavit.
  • 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 Procedure Act.
  • 3 AAC 110.630. Effective date and certification, Voting Rights Act approval, certification of election, legislative review deadline, certificate of change, recordation.
  • 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 of non-discrimination.
  • 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.

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Revised 3/24/03