Boundary commission denies CBJ’s consolidation request

The state’s Local Boundary Commission will not consolidate Petersburg’s borough petition with a competing annexation proposal from Juneau. Nor will it postpone action on the Petersburg proposal. The commission unanimously denied the City and Borough of Juneau’s request in a teleconferenced meeting Wednesday morning. Matt Lichtenstein reports.

Juneau submitted its annexation petition in early November, about seven months after Petersburg had filed its borough petition in early April. Juneau is trying to annex over 19-hundred square miles of the territory that Petersburg included in its proposed borough boundaries. Petersburg’s proposal is well ahead of Juneau’s in the local boundary commission review process.

If the petitions were consolidated, the Commision and its staff would review, take comments, hold hearings and decide on the two conflicting proposals in the same process, rather than separately. If the commissioners chose not to go that route, then the City and Borough of Juneau Law Department’s Amy Mead encouraged them to consider holding off for a while on the Petersburg review.

“We are asking at the very least that the Petersburg petition be postponed to allow the CBJ petition to kind of catch up,” said Mead. “So the two petitions can proceed simultaneously, thereby ensuring that any decision made on one that affects the other is afforded a full and complete opportunity for public participation.”

Both Juneau and Petersburg claim historic and contemporary ties to the disputed lands, which are relatively undeveloped and unpopulated. The territory in question extends south from the Juneau Borough Boundary at Holkum bay down to Cape Fanshaw and east to the Canadian boarder. Juneau officials have considered annexing the area in the past, but the Assembly did not move forward until Petersburg had petitioned for the territory. Petersburg City Attorney Jim Brennan emphasized that point as he addressed the commission.

“The basic underlying fact here is that Juneau has filed their annexation petition in a purely reactionary mode,” Brennan said. “They waited and waited and waited until the last possible day.”

After more staff and public review, the boundary commission is tentatively planning to hold a public hearing and make a decision on the Petersburg petition in late May or early June. Brennan argued that consolidation would mean a significant delay for Petersburg, which has been working on the highly publicized Borough plan for several years.

“This process on the Petersburg end has taken a substantial effort. It has been underway for a long time,” said Brennan. “Juneau will have full opportunity for input. There is no unfairness here, there’s no conflict with the regulations, and there’s no danger of inconsistent decisions.”

The Boundary Commission staff recommended against consolidation or postponement and Commission Chair Lynn Chrystal agreed:

“We’re not going to be operating in a vacuum. We’ll have lots of information, and I feel confident that without consolidation, we can render a fair decision for both parties,” Chrystal said.

The Five commissioners voted unanimously against the Juneau requests. The Juneau petition is still under its initial technical review according to Commission staff, who are currently working on the more detailed, preliminary report for the Petersburg petition. That report considers the public comments that have come in so far and whether the plan meets state standards for borough formation. It’s expected to come out in late February, followed by another round of public review and comment.

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