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Municipal Boundaries

Annexation to a City Government

Introduction

"Annexation to a city" means expanding the city's boundaries to include more territory. Annexation results in extending city services, city regulation, city voting privileges, and city taxing authority to the annexed territory. “Territory” is the term generally used to describe land in cities, while “area” generally refers to the land in boroughs.

Narrative

Any proposed boundary change, including annexation, must be approved by the Local Boundary Commission (“LBC” or “commission”). State law requires certain standards be met, and certain procedures be followed in order for the commission to approve a proposed annexation. In other words, the mere filing of a petition does not ensure that the proposed annexation will occur. If the LBC approves the petition, in most cases, either the voters need to approve it, or the Legislature must not disapprove it for the annexation to take effect. (see “Petition Methods” below for more information). Annexation requires a large commitment of time and resources. Before any decision is made to begin work on an annexation petition, a lot of thought should be given to the need for annexation as well as which method to use. This document provides basic information about city annexation; however, annexation is a complex matter that cannot be covered completely in this brief overview.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can provide information regarding annexation to cities?

There is a Local Boundary Commission staff. The LBC staff is located within the Division of Community and Regional Affairs. That division is within the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. The staff is available to provide technical assistance, petition forms, and sample annexation materials to anyone interested in petitioning, and is available to provide materials and information to those interested in responding to a petition. The staff also provides general information to any other interested individuals or groups.

If an individual or group does not want annexation, will the state provide information to them?

Yes. LBC staff will provide information about how to submit comments, or how to submit a responsive brief. Submitting a responsive brief allows any interested party to be identified as a "respondent" in the annexation proceeding. Being identified as a respondent provides certain procedural rights at the commission's public hearing. These rights include being able to present witnesses and to give opening and closing arguments. The staff can also explain the standards and procedures.

Why do cities seek to annex?

Some cities seek to annex in order to include people or other property owners who want to be within the city. Other cities seek to annex so that facilities such as a harbor or power plant are within city boundaries. Still other cities seek to annex to gain more tax revenue.

Who can start an annexation petition?

A petition for annexation may be started by:

  • a city;
  • a borough;
  • a regional educational attendance area (REAA);
  • at least 10 percent of the resident registered voters of a city, borough, or REAA;
  • at least 10 percent of the registered voters in the territory proposed for annexation;
  • the Legislature;
  • the commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development;
  • a person designated by the Local Boundary Commission.

What is the procedure for annexation?

Most petitions come from either municipalities (boroughs and cities) or citizens. The petitioner drafts the petition, proposes the boundaries, and, if the petition is initiated by citizens, gathers signatures. If the petition is initiated by a municipality, then the proposed boundary change would first need to be discussed at a publicly-noticed city council meeting. People can attend such a meeting, or otherwise make their views known to the potential petitioner. It is possible that such input could result in a petition not being filed, or filed with different boundaries. When a petition is submitted, the LBC staff first performs a technical review which verifies that the petition includes everything necessary and required by statutes and regulations, rather than performing an analysis of the merits of the petition. If the petition does not include all of the necessary information, the staff sends it back to the petitioner to complete. If a petition is accepted for filing, there is a publicly-noticed opportunity for the public to submit for written comment. A person or entity can also become a “respondent.” A respondent has the opportunity to file a brief in response to the petition, and to present witnesses at the hearing. This gives a respondent the opportunity for greater input before the commission.

Next, the staff analyzes the petition to see whether it meets the standards or not. In doing so, it considers the petition, briefs, and comments submitted. The staff then issues a public report with its findings. People can comment on that report, and say why they feel the report is correct or incorrect in its findings. The staff considers those comments, and then issues a second report with its findings. The findings could change from the first report based on the comments submitted. After public notice, the commission will hold its hearing, and parties can present witnesses, and the public has an opportunity to speak. After the hearing, the commission will carefully consider all of the testimony, materials and comments submitted in determining whether the petition meets the standards. It will then approve, amend, or deny the petition. A petition generally takes about a year before the LBC holds the hearing and issues a decision, mainly because of the extensive opportunity for public comment, and because of the two written reports by staff analyzing the petition. A “unanimous consent” petition (see below) can take much less time.

Petition Methods

State law establishes procedures for several different types of annexation by legislative review (authorized by Alaska's constitution) or by local action (authorized by statute):

Local Action:

  • Annexation by Vote. A territory can be annexed through an election. If the commission approves the petition, then the question is then placed on the ballot. A majority of voters in the territory proposed for annexation, and a majority of voters in the annexing city must approve the ballot measure before the proposed annexation can take effect.
  • Annexation of Adjoining City-Owned Property. City-owned property that adjoins the city boundaries may be annexed. The city council must adopt an ordinance and then petition the Local Boundary Commission. The LBC must then approve the petition.
  • Annexation Upon Unanimous Consent of Owners and Voters. A territory next to a city may be annexed if all of the property owners and all of the voters registered to vote in the territory proposed for annexation ask the city to annex them. The city council must first adopt an ordinance approving the proposed annexation, and then petition the Local Boundary Commission. The LBC must then approve the petition.

Legislative Review

  • Annexation by Legislative Review. A territory may be annexed without approval by the voters or property owners under the legislative review process. This method is authorized by the state constitution. Such petitions require approval by the LBC as well as review by the Alaska State Legislature. Legislative review petitions follow the same process as local action petitions, and allow for the same public comment periods. The difference occurs if and when the LBC approves a legislative review petition. In that case, the LBC presents its approval to the Legislature during the first 10 days of a regular session of the Legislature. The Legislature then has the opportunity to act on the LBC's recommendation for approval. If the Legislature adopts a concurrent resolution to deny the recommendation within 45 days of the date that it was filed, then the recommendation is denied. If the Legislature takes no action, it has tacitly approved the proposal. In other words, this means that the annexation is approved unless the legislature specifically denies it within the 45-day period

How does a potential petitioner decide what method of annexation to use?

The petitioners can choose the method used. If all owners of property and registered voters in a territory want annexation, then annexation by unanimous consent of owners and resident voters would likely be the annexation method to use. If the “unanimous consent” method does not apply, then the petitioners can choose either the local action by vote method, or the legislative review method. The commission may change the method used.

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

There is no specific size limit. Cities are community-based municipal governments rather than regionally based. The average Alaskan city is about 30 square miles. The Alaska Administrative Code (3 AAC 110.130) generally prohibits cities from annexing entire geographic regions, or large unpopulated areas. In most cases, the territory proposed to be annexed must be next to the city proposing the annexation.

What are the standards the LBC uses to reach a decision?

Certain regulatory standards (3 AAC 110.090-3 AAC 110.130) apply to proposed annexations. The standards concern:

  • the need for the territory to be annexed,
  • whether the territory is compatible in character with the annexing city,
  • if the economy within the proposed expanded boundaries of the city has the human and financial resources to provide essential municipal services efficiently,
  • whether the population of the proposed expanded city is sufficiently large and stable,
  • whether the boundaries are appropriate,
  • and whether the annexation is in the best interests of the state.
Additional Resources

Publications:

Recommended web site search topics:

  • Local Boundary Commission (LBC) Staff
  • Alaska Municipal League
  • Alaska Statutes
  • Alaska Administrative Code
  • Alaska Constitution
  • Alaska Supreme Court decisions: Fairview v. City of Anchorage; Oesau v. City of Dillingham; City of Douglas v. City & Borough of Juneau; United States Smelting v. LBC; Port Valdez Company v. City of Valdez; Pavlik v. State, Dept. of Community and Regional Affairs; Lake and Peninsula Borough v. LBC
Applicable Laws and Regulations

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

  • 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.
  • 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 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.

Revised 4/27/2015