Judge rules for Petersburg in boundary dispute
The City and Borough of Juneau has lost its appeal of a decision allowing the new Petersburg Borough to operate with expanded northern territory along the mainland.
The decision was issued Friday by Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez and it essentially means that the area from the middle of Holkham Bay down to Cape Fanshaw will remain under the jurisdiction of Petersburg.
The CBJ argued the Local Boundary Commission did not properly consider evidence submitted by Juneau officials. They also argued the contested area was more closely associated with Juneau.
Petersburg officials claimed stronger ties to the area and argued that Juneau’s evidence was actually considered when the LBC took up their borough incorporation petition.
As both Juneau and Petersburg submitted separate petitions for overlapping land annexations, Judge Menendez also wrote that there was no requirement for the LBC to compare both communities’ interests and connections to the contested area.
Juneau City Attorney Amy Mead said they can still appeal the decision to the Alaska Supreme Court. But that won’t be her call.
“I think that there were some significant legal problems with the analysis,” Mead said. “But I really feel I need to apprise the (CBJ) Assembly of that before I am more specific.”
Petersburg officials also warned that invalidating the current voter-approved boundaries would create chaos with dissolution of their municipality and a possible restart of the borough incorporation process.
Petersburg Mayor Mark Jensen was boarding an Alaska Airlines flight Tuesday morning to take him right past the contested lands on his way to Juneau for the regional high school basketball tournament. Jensen was happy about the ruling.
“Well, I think that’s great,” Jensen said. “We’ve been going through the transition period already and spending some of the money the state has supplied us. Hopefully, there’s not an appeal by the Juneau borough and it’ll just stand and we’ll move forward.”
Petersburg dissolved its city government and became a borough government after voters approved the change in late 2012.
Juneau Mayor Merrill Sanford did not return a message seeking comment on Tuesday. Bruce Botelho, who was mayor when Juneau’s annexation petition was filed, declined to comment until he had a chance to review the judge’s decision.
Oral arguments on the appeal of the LBC decision approving the Petersburg boundaries were held in Juneau Superior Court on Sept. 4, 2013.