Juneau files brief in boundary dispute

No compromise following a meeting earlier this week (Wednesday) of Juneau and Petersburg officials over a land dispute between the two communities. But the discussion between city leaders is being described as productive.

The City of Petersburg wants to form a borough that includes lands previously identified for annexation by Juneau. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Mark Jensen and Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho met Wednesday to discuss the possibility of a compromise boundary.

Botelho called the meeting cordial, but said Juneau still wants to make its case in writing to the state’s Local Boundary Commission before further talk of compromise.

“We thought it would be most valuable for Petersburg to have a chance to review the basis for our assertion,” Botelho says.

That assertion is that the area in question, which is largely unpopulated, most appropriately belongs in the City and Borough of Juneau. It includes all land from the CBJ’s southern boundary and east to the Canadian border, as far south as Cape Fanshaw.

Juneau filed a 74-page brief with the boundary commission Wednesday, opposing Petersburg’s claim over those lands. On Monday, the CBJ Assembly plans to approve an annexation petition, seeking to officially stake Juneau’s claim to the area. But Botelho says that doesn’t rule out some sort of compromise in the future.

“Certainly we’re going to be prepared to have discussions as would be appropriate between neighboring communities,” says Botelho.

In its brief, Juneau argues that various state and federal agencies have historically included the disputed area with the CBJ for administrative purposes. Petersburg argues that its residents have historical hunting, fishing and recreational ties to the area. Jensen says the talk with Botelho was “constructive.”

“Expressed our concerns and why we thought we had a leg to stand on – the fishing interests in that region and the use over the years. And they’ve got their points as well. So, I guess the boundary commission will be making some decisions here,” he says.

Jensen also met Wednesday with officials from Juneau Native Corporation Goldbelt. The company owns 30-thousand acres at Hobart Bay in the contested area. In his latest comment to the boundary commission, Goldbelt Vice President Derek Duncan said the company prefers the land remain outside any incorporated borough. He said Goldbelt would continue to study its options and make its borough preference known soon.

As of Thursday afternoon, no further statement from the company had been posted on the commission’s website, and Duncan could not be reached for comment.

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