About two dozen people attended a public hearing Thursday in Pasco on proposed zoning for part the area of Franklin County known as the "doughnut hole."
The Pasco Planning Commission considered the zoning for about 600 acres of the doughnut hole as part of the process of annexing the land.
And for perhaps the first time since the city began public discussions about annexing the doughnut hole in July 2011, the meeting was relatively free of controversy.
Of the eight people who testified during the public hearing, no one voiced opposition to the zoning plan -- although some may oppose the annexation itself.
City Planner Dave McDonald told the commission that the city's planning staff recommended keeping the county zoning in place, with the exception of a couple of clusters zoned for R2 multifamily residential development. The city proposed lowering the density on those to the RS-20 zone, which allows only single-family homes to be built on lots of at least 20,000 square feet.
About 90 percent of the land in the area proposed for annexation already is zoned RS-20, and the land zoned R2 has been developed with single-family homes on large lots as though it were zoned RS-20, McDonald said.
"I'm not sure R2 would provide the community the protections they want in terms of maintaining the character of the neighborhood," McDonald said.
The area also contains about 13 acres of commercial land that the city planning staff recommended leaving as is.
The doughnut hole 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, and has been earmarked for future city growth since the '90s. About 4,000 people live there.
A group of doughnut hole residents who oppose annexation collected signatures to vote on incorporating their own city, which would be called Riverview, as an effort to block annexation.
In response, the city council voted 4-3 on June 18 to proceed with annexing a portion of the doughnut hole with enough population to stop incorporation, which would require the new city to have at least 3,000 residents. The annexation currently under way would absorb about 1,400 people and effectively kill incorporation efforts.
A series of meetings about annexation and incorporation during the past several months typically have drawn 100 to 200 people, many of whom have said they opposed annexation or had concerns about how annexation would affect the rural character of the doughnut hole.
Steven Schlegel, an incorporation proponent, told the planning commission on Thursday that he believed the zoning plan proposed by McDonald and Rick White, the city's community and economic development director, looked like a good plan.
"This type of zoning really seems proper and maintains the feeling of the area," he said.
Most people who spoke said they supported the zoning plan, but a couple of people voiced concerns that the zoning may only be temporary if a developer wants higher density.
"It does look good the way it is now," said doughnut hole resident Pam Kelly. "If it's annexed, what are the odds something would change?"
Planning commission member Andy Anderson said he's been annexed by Pasco twice, and that both times the city maintained the zoning.
"I had the same concerns most of you folks have," Anderson said. "I know there's a lot of fear of the unknown. ... I think the city stands up to their word."
White said the city can't stop someone from asking for a zoning change on land they own, but if that happens, there would be a public hearing and opportunity for residents to speak their minds.
"The goal is to retain the character of the neighborhood," White said.
The commission voted unanimously to recommend that the city council approve the zoning plan. The council likely will make a decision Oct. 29 -- the same night as a public hearing on the overall annexation issue.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; email@example.com