PASCO, Wash. — Residents in a Franklin County doughnut hole may get some answers Thursday about how their land could be developed in the future.
The city is considering annexing a portion of the area between Road 52 and Road 68 south of a Franklin County Irrigation District canal.
But a group of residents in the doughnut hole oppose annexation and have started a movement to incorporate into their own city called Riverview.
On Thursday, the Pasco Planning Commission will hold a hearing on the proposed zoning for the area if it is annexed. The hearing is required by state law, and then the planning commission sends a recommendation to the city council.
City Manager Gary Crutchfield told the Herald that he asked city staff members to try to match the current county zoning as closely as possible to zoning that exists in the city code.
"We said all along it was not our intent to foster high density development. I know there's a lot of fear about that," he said. "All we can do is demonstrate that we're going to walk our talk."
The document produced by the fact-finding committee said most of the uses allowed under the doughnut hole's current zoning still would be allowed under corresponding city zoning.
Residents could have the same number of horses or cows or sheep per acre in the matching city zone that they do in their current county zone.
About the only difference is that the city limits the number of chickens, fowl or rabbits someone can own while the county has no limits.
Rick White, the city's community and economic development director, said the city and county worked together years ago to make sure their zoning districts were consistent, to make for easier transitions as county land was annexed.
"I don't think this is very controversial at all," White told the Herald.
He said the vast majority -- except for a few small spots of commercial development -- are being proposed to be zoned so that the minimum lot size is 20,000 square feet.
And since that's a minimum, there's nothing that prevents residents from having larger lots, he said.
White on Thursday will present a proposed zoning map for the planning commission's consideration. Residents can look at that map online by going to the documents section on the city's website and looking at the planning commission packet for Thursday.
But the concern remains among doughnut hole residents who oppose annexation that zoning can change if a neighbor sells land to a developer at some point in the future, and they could end up with more dense development.
The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Pasco City Hall.
Taxes and fees
A comparison of city and county tax rates shows doughnut hole residents would save about 88 cents per $1,000 in assessed value on their annual property taxes if annexed. That is a savings of about $88 per year for the owner of a $100,000 home.
Even though they'd add a city property tax levy of about $1.97 per $1,000, that would be offset by no longer paying for Franklin Fire District 3, the county road assessment or the Mid-Columbia Libraries district levy.
The total property tax rate for doughnut hole residents would drop through annexation from $13.91 per $1,000 to $13.03.
But by annexing into Pasco, those residents would pick up some new fees, mostly if they build new homes. The city charges a $687 park impact fee for new residential units, compared to the $300 fee charged by the county.
The city also charges a $709 traffic impact fee per lot for new residential units and a $4,700 school impact fee per new single-family home, or $4,525 per new multifamily unit. Those fees are charged when a building permit is issued. Neither fee is charged by the county.
Incorporation proponents say that taxes in the new city would remain the same as they now are in the county.
Mark MacFarlan, one of the chief advocates for incorporation, said the plan is to create the city -- but without a city property tax levy.
He said the belief is that residents can get the same services they already have for the same fees or lower, if Riverview can negotiate lower costs.
"We don't see a significant change," he said.
With no city property tax levy, the new city would be missing a source of revenue many cities rely heavily on.
But there is some limited commercial development inside the doughnut hole, and the new city could bring in some money in the form of sales taxes.
Riverview also could collect sales taxes on construction when new homes are built there, and from programs in which the state shares money with cities based on population, such as sharing gas taxes or liquor taxes.
Pasco School District officials said it is too soon to say how the possible incorporation of Riverview into a city would affect its operations, but it likely wouldn't create much change.
The district has two schools in the doughnut hole -- Ruth Livingston Elementary School and McLoughlin Middle School. Edwin Markham Elementary School is in an unincorporated area of Franklin County north of Pasco.
"We already serve two jurisdictions," said district spokeswoman Leslee Caul. "We would adjust no matter what the decision (on Riverview) is."
Markham's remoteness means it receives water and sewer services from the White Bluffs Water District, while all other Pasco schools receive them from the city of Pasco, Caul said.
The district has cooperative agreements and working relationships with the Pasco Police Department and the Franklin County Sheriff's Office. Both agencies provide school resource officers to the district.
Fire response depends on which fire district the school is in, but most are served by the Pasco Fire Department. However, Caul said city and county firefighters often respond to incidents at schools as necessary -- and that likely would continue into the future.
The district has proposed building three new schools if voters approve a $46.4 million bond in February, but none of them would be built in the doughnut hole.
No one knows how the issues involved in the area's annexation by Pasco or its own incorporation would affect any possible future schools in that area.
"We're just watching like everyone else," Caul said.
-- Annexation opponents: citizensforlifestylepreservation.org
-- Pasco annexation website: tinyurl.com/pascoannex
* Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; email@example.com