'Doughnut hole' residents deliver petition to become their own town

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldOctober 4, 2012 

Residents of the Franklin County land encircled by Pasco boundaries are one step closer to getting a vote to become their own town.

Members of the Citizens for Lifestyle Presentation submitted a petition Wednesday morning asking for a vote to incorporate the so-called doughnut hole into the proposed city of Riverview.

The 236-page petition was handed off to county Auditor Matt Beaton after being passed hand to hand by some of the petition gatherers and incorporation proponents who helped collect signatures.

Auditor's office staff started stamping each page with the date it was received, including the 60 pages that held an estimated 982 signatures.

The citizen group needs at least 268 of the registered voters in that area to put the measure on the ballot, Beaton said. That number represents 10 percent of the 2,679 registered voters in that area.

The incorporation effort is a grassroots response to the city of Pasco's attempts to annex the area, believed to have about 4,000 residents.

The area generally is south of Argent Road between Road 100 on the west and Road 44 to the east and Sylvester and Court streets to the south.

Roger Lenk, co-founder of Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation, said the effort to incorporate is historic. A city isn't formed every year, or even every decade, he said. There are about 281 cities in Washington.

Mark MacFarlan, the group's other founder, said this is the residents' chance to vote on what they want.

He said he moved to the county from the city of Pasco because it was where he wanted to live.

Another resident Steven Schlegel said he feels being annexed by Pasco would mean a change for the worse.

Areas that have been annexed in the past have seen higher density development, he said.

And the codes are more stringent than the county ones, such as limiting grass height and prohibiting vehicles from being parked on grass, Schlegel said.

"We are a rural area. Those don't work," he said.

Beaton said his staff will start the verification process for the signatures. The names will be checked to make sure the person is a registered voter in the area and that the signature matches their registration. They also will check that no one signed more than once.

Beaton said he expects it will take less than the 30 days allowed by state law for his office to verify the names.

If the petition meets all the requirements, a public hearing will be set and, if the county commissioners don't object, the incorporation measure would go to a special election 60 days or more after the hearing, according to information from the auditor's office.

MacFarlan said it would be nice to wait until August to give the group more time to educate Riverview residents about their options.

However, the timing of the ballot measure may depend on what other issues are planned for the same ballot because that will help lower the cost of holding the election.

If voters approve the incorporation, the newly formed city would pay their share of the election cost, Lenk said.

It's not clear who would pay if the vote fails. Beaton said they are getting clarification on the state law.

Lenk said they plan to ask voters to create a "code city," which would have six elected council members and one elected mayor, all at-large positions. The city would operate without any staff, buildings or equipment, he said.

Instead, they would contract with Franklin County for the services that residents currently receive, and continue to be part of Franklin Fire District 3, the Mid-Columbia Libraries district and the county road district, Lenk said.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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