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Local Government Resource Desk

Boundary Changes

Borough Incorporation


"Borough incorporation" means the creation of a regional municipal government to provide government and services at the regional level. There are four types of organized boroughs in Alaska, with some differences in how they are organized and varying powers and duties. These differences are discussed in detail in the Division of Community and Regional Affair's publication, Local Government in Alaska.

Those interested in incorporation, should carefully review the publications identified in the Additional Resources section of this chapter.


Borough incorporation requires a big commitment of time and other resources. Before making a decision to begin work on incorporation, a lot of thought should be given to researching and planning the process. The borough incorporation process follows a set chain of events, which formally begins when a signed petition and other required documents are filed with the Local Boundary Commission (LBC). Staff from the Division of Community and Regional Affairs then reviews the petition and documentation and submits it to the LBC with any recommendations.

A region must have an adequate economy, population, transportation, and communication infrastructure to support the proposed borough government. Moreover, the population of the region must be socially, culturally, and economically interrelated and integrated in a regional context. The proposed boundaries must embody the characteristics intended for borough governments. Also, the proposal must serve the broad policy benefit to the public statewide. A region may incorporate a borough government if it meets the standards established in law (Article X of the Constitution of the State of Alaska, AS 29.05.031, AS 29.05.100, 3 AAC 110.045 - .065, and 3 AAC 110.900 - .980).

This chapter provides an overview of basic information about borough incorporation. Incorporation is a complex matter that cannot be covered completely in this brief overview. This overview does, however, provide information and links to applicable law, additional publications, and staff available to provide assistance on borough incorporation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the available options for borough incorporation?

There are four types of organized borough government in Alaska (unified home rule, home rule, first class, and second class.)

State law requires organized boroughs to provide education on an areawide basis (AS 29.35.160). All organized boroughs must also provide planning, platting, land use regulation, and tax collection and assessment on an areawide basis. State law does not mandate boroughs to provide any other particular service or facility; however, each class of borough government has broad authority to exercise powers. Every borough also has certain general obligations, including annual audits or financial reports, regular elections, codification of ordinances, regular meetings of the borough assembly, etc.

When proposing incorporation of a home rule borough (unified or non-unified), petitioners must prepare a charter, which is the equivalent of a local government constitution. It is important to keep in mind that writing a charter requires a lot of community know-how and commitment beyond that required for incorporation of a general law borough.

Who can petition to incorporate?

A borough government is usually created by a petition submitted by voters within a region. (Although the state can create borough governments on its own initiative, it has not done so since 1963-64 when it incorporated eight boroughs.)

A voter-initiated petition to incorporate a borough must be signed by at least:

  • 15 percent of the voters inside home rule and first class cities within the area proposed for borough incorporation that voted during the last general election; and
  • 15 percent of the voters outside home rule and first class cities within the area proposed for borough incorporation that voted during the last general election.

What are the pros and cons of borough incorporation?

The advantages and disadvantages of forming a new borough government will vary depending on the community and the type of borough proposed for incorporation. Generally, people supporting incorporation stress that a borough would provide greater local control and the means to provide essential local services. People against incorporation generally focus on new taxes and fees among the possible problems. Also, if the community is within a city, critics frequently stress that the city can provide any needed services, and that a borough would just be an unnecessary additional layer of government. It is important to explore the pros and cons of incorporation carefully before beginning any work on incorporation.

Are there criteria that guide the development of a borough incorporation petition?

Yes, the criteria are found in Article X of the Constitution of the State of Alaska, AS 29.05.031, AS 29.05.100, and 3 AAC 110.045 -.065. These criteria should be carefully reviewed when deciding whether to incorporate and what type of incorporation to pursue. If the prospective petitioners decide to pursue incorporation, the criteria should also be used to guide the development of the petition. The Department of Commerce, Community, and Regional Affairs will frame its recommendation to the LBC based on these criteria, and the LBC will apply these same criteria to judge the merits of the petition.

What boundaries are appropriate for a new borough?

Borough governments are regionally-based municipalities. Legal standards for borough boundaries are provided in Article X (particularly Section 3) of the Constitution, AS 29.05.031 and 3 AAC 110.045-.060.

Are State grants available to study the feasibility and need for a new borough government?

No. State funding for studies of a prospective borough government is not currently available.

Does the state provide technical assistance to citizens who wish to incorporate?

Yes, the staff of the Local Boundary Commission provides certain assistance to prospective petitioners. Assistance includes providing petition forms and sample successful proposals, consultation regarding policy issues, guidance regarding technical matters and direction concerning sources of information needed to complete a petition. While the state can provide some assistance, the burden of preparing a proper petition remains with the petitioners.

If a group opposes incorporation, does the State assist it as well?

Yes. The staff of the Local Boundary Commission will also provide assistance to any individual and organization that wishes to express views opposing an incorporation proposal. Assistance to opponents might include providing sample responsive briefs filed in opposition to prior petitions, consultation regarding policy issues, guidance regarding technical matters, and direction where fundamental information is needed to complete a responsive brief in opposition to a proposal can be obtained.

Can a petition be amended after it is filed?

Yes, the petitioners may amend the petition. The Local Boundary Commission can also amend or impose conditions on an incorporation proposal following a public hearing. Ideally, however, with careful planning and proper consultation before the filing of a petition, amendments can be avoided. Amending a petition may, under certain circumstances, cause delays in the consideration of the petition.

How long does it take to incorporate?

It typically takes several months (in some cases a year or more depending on the local effort) to prepare a proper petition. Prospective petitioners are encouraged to work closely with the LBC staff in developing a petition. Once a petition is completed and the necessary signatures have been gathered, the petition is filed with the Local Boundary Commission. The process for review of the proposal by the LBC typically takes about one year. If the Commission approves the petition, the State will conduct a local election on the matter. The process for the incorporation election typically involves about three months.

Additional Resources Applicable Laws and Regulations

Alaska Constitution, Article X

  • Section 1 Purpose and construction, local self-government, local government units.
  • Section 2 Local self-government powers, taxing authority.
  • Section 3 Boroughs, standards required to be established, classification, method of organization.
  • Section 5 Service Areas, financing services.
  • Section 12 Boundaries.
  • Section 14 Agency to advise and assist local governments.

Alaska Statutes

  • AS 29.03.010 -.030 Unorganized borough
  • AS 29.04.010 Home rule
  • AS 29.04.020 -.030 General law
  • AS 29.04.050 -.060 Borough reclassification
  • AS 29.05.031 Incorporation of a borough or unified municipality, standards
  • AS 29.05.060 Petition, required information, maps, proposed operating budget, signatures, powers.
  • AS 29.05.070 Review, deficient application.
  • AS 29.05.080 Investigation, Commerce informational meetings, notice.
  • AS 29.05.090 Hearing, public hearing.
  • AS 29.05.100 Decision, LBC amendment/conditions, decision criteria, appeal under the Administrative Procedures Act.
  • AS 29.05.110 Incorporation election, notification to director of elections, election on incorporation, municipal officials, voter qualifications, powers, charter.
  • AS 29.05.120 Election of initial officials, nomination form, elections supervisor, terms in office.
  • AS 29.05.130 Integration of special districts and service areas, time limit, fees, taxes, assessments.
  • AS 29.05.140 Transition, time limit; effect of ordinances, rules, and procedures; written notice.
  • AS 29.05.150 Challenge of legality, time limit.
  • 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.
  • 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 110.045 Community of interests
  • 3 AAC 110.050 Population
  • 3 AAC 110.055 Resources
  • 3 AAC 110.060 Boundaries
  • 3 AAC 110.065 Best interests of state
  • 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 10/2/2018