PALMER — The Palmer City Council heard their second presentation from Agnew Beck to discuss the annexation study in as many meetings on Sept. 8.
After a presentation was cut short due to overwhelming public comment at the special meeting held three weeks ago, consultants from Agnew Beck were able to detail the pending process for possible consideration of annexation of seven zones bordering Palmer’s city limits, or bordering another zone considered for annexation.
“Truthfully that’s why we are here is just to talk about maps,” said Community Development Director Brad Hanson.
Consultants with Agnew Beck have set up Palmerannexstudy.org to provide information on the project and what community stakeholder input opportunities will be available, as well as the process for considering annexation. Economic Study co-lead Shanna Zuspan said that part of considering annexing property outside of Palmer city limits is to consider both economic factors for annexation and non economic factors.
“Annexation would affect your governance, your finances, the way that you provide services and if done right it would really hope to improve those roles and functions particularly in the annexed areas,” said Zuspan. “It’s a combination of really economic and financial considerations as well as how you want to manage the future of your community, right, for both economic and non economic reasons. So if there are particular areas that are realizing a lot of growth and could impact your community and your existing residents in potentially negative ways, having the ability to be involved in the planning and the surface provision of those areas can be beneficial. It’s also important to find out kind of how much it’s going to cost to annex particular areas and how much revenue you’re going to be able to generate form those areas.”
Project Manager Heather Stewart led the discussion through the goals that have already been established by previous annexation studies and the history that consultants could gather from those documents. The Palmer Comprehensive Plan that Agnew Beck consulted for in 2006 specifically mentions annexation as a potential for the future. A 2007 annexation study failed a vote of the city council to pass on the the local boundary commission that had originally examined the area to be annexed with the water sewer service line as the potential for growth. Maps presented at the meeting on Tuesday, September 8 were much smaller in scope and drew immediate speculation from council members.
“Our goal is to break the potential areas for annexation into small enough chunks to give you some idea as to what the economic effects would be so that you could make an informed decision,” said Stewart. “The more that people have an understanding of what’s to come and the expectations are fulfilled in a timely manner, the smoother the overall process will be.”
The presentation detailed the process to present to the Local Boundary Commission and ratify the annexation by a variety of circumstances, either from a vote of the residents and annexed areas or through the Legislature. A 2010 study conducted by Agnew Beck focused on Economics but Stewart said that the impacts were not as robustly examined in that study. Stewart mentioned three team members that have previously consulted with city of Palmer projects, specifically concerning annexation strategy. Following the lengthy annexation discussion, if presented to the Local Boundary Commission, another public comment period of 28 days would occur. Councilman Richard Best asked for City Attorney Michael Gatti to examine the legality of the council promoting a vote of the people as the best option to proceed.
“The preferred option is the local option where by a vote of citizens within city limits and in the areas to be annexed following city election ordinance and procedures, the annexation can be passed. If you have the solid support of both the city residents and the residents in the areas and communities to be annexed it’s the preferred option,” said Stewart.
Stewart said that there is no specific goal in mind when considering the amount of area or the total population of the area under consideration for annexation, but that the balance between economic impacts of having the residents within city limits is yet to be determined. A total of six members of the public emailed comments to be read into the record as well as one member of the public who spoke in person. Of the seven written comments, only one wrote in favor.
“It is not a burger king universe. The city of Palmer can not have it their way,” wrote David Kolberg. “This is a perfect example of why residents are opposed to more government. As residents of the area we do not want more government control.”