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"Detachment" from a city means to shrink the corporate boundaries of the city by the removal of territory formerly within its control. There are two methods available to detach territory from a city. One involves an election among the voters in the territory proposed for detachment (AS 29.06.040(c)(1)). The other involves legislative review (Article X, Section 12, Alaska Constitution.)
The detachment process requires a big commitment of time and other resources. Before any decision is made to begin work on detachment, a lot of thought should be given to the need for detachment, the method to use, and the likelihood of success. This topic provides a brief overview of basic detachment information, however, this is a complex matter that cannot be covered completely in this brief overview. This overview provides information and links to applicable law and staff available to provide assistance and answer questions on detachment.
Who can initiate a detachment petition?
A petition for detachment may be initiated by:
Are disagreements with the city government a basis for detachment?
Occasionally, a petitioner is motivated by disagreements with the city over policy issues, land use regulation, tax rates, apparent differences between levels of service and taxes or fees, or similar issues. Such disagreements are not a basis for detachment. Detachment is not intended to be a means to settle group or individual disagreements with local governments. Detachments rarely occur. A proposal to detach territory will be granted only if it meets all applicable standards established in law.
Who can provide information regarding detachment from cities?
Commerce's Local Boundary Commission (LBC) staff are available to provide technical assistance, petition forms, and sample detachment materials to potential petitioners and to other interested parties.
If an individual, group, or organization does not want detachment, does the state assist them as well?
Yes. Commerce's LBC staff are available to provide technical assistance and sample materials to those who may wish to oppose a detachment proposal. Interested parties may file a responsive brief. This allows any interested party to be identified as a "respondent" in the detachment proceeding. Being identified as a respondent results in a higher level of notice about action on the detachment and provides certain procedural rights at the Local Boundary Commission's public hearing.
Can a petition be changed after it is filed?
The petition may be changed by the petitioner. The LBC can also change it or add conditions to a proposal following a public hearing. Ideally, however, with careful planning and consultation before filing a petition, changes can be avoided. Changing a petition may, under certain circumstances, cause delays in the process.
How long does it take to detach?
It typically takes several months (in some cases a year or more depending on the local effort) to prepare a proper petition. Petitioners are encouraged to work closely with LBC staff in developing a petition. The process for review of the proposal by the LBC depends, in part, on other actions the Commission is working on. There are many procedural steps required by law that take time to complete. In general, plan for it to take one year or longer from the filing of a petition until final action.
Detachment Through Election by Voters in the Territory Proposed for Detachment. Territory may be detached, upon approval by the Local Boundary Commission, if an election is held and a majority of the voters living in the territory to be detached vote to approve it. To pass, the proposition must be approved by a majority of those voting on the question.
Detachment by Legislative Review. Territory may be detached 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 under Article X, Section 12 of Alaska's constitution. Tacit approval means the action is approved unless specific action is taken to deny the action within a set period of time. Legislative review is initiated when the LBC files a recommendation for the detachment 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.
Alaska Constitution - Article X
Alaska Statutes (See Current Alaska Statutes)
Alaska Regulations (See The Alaska Administrative Code)