Pasco votes to annex part of 'doughnut hole'

October 29, 2012 

Late Monday, the Pasco City Council voted in favor of annexing enough of the so-called "doughnut hole" area of the city to effectively stop any effort to create a new incorporated area.

Many of the 50 or so people who attended the public hearing said they just want to be left alone. They don't want to be annexed into Pasco, but they also aren't too keen on the idea of forming their own city, as some residents have petitioned the county to do.

They just want things to stay as they are.

"I don't want to be part of your city. I don't want to be part of their city. I really don't want things to change very much," said Tina Scott, who lives on West Agate Street.

Regardless, the city council voted 5-2 to annex. Voting in favor were Mayor Matt Watkins, Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Francik, Bob Hoffmann, Saul Martinez and Mike Garrison. Voting against were Al Yenney and Tom Larsen.

This move, effective Jan. 1, will absorb about 1,400 people into Pasco. That is enough to stop incorporation efforts, which would require the new city to have at least 3,000 residents.

The city began public discussions in July 2011 about annexing the area, which has been earmarked for future city growth since the '90s.

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. About 4,000 people live there.

Doughnut hole residents who oppose annexation collected signatures to vote on incorporating their own city 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.

Roger Lenk, who lives on Road 76 and is one of the leaders of the incorporation movement, said if the council moves ahead with annexation, residents will file petitions to vote to de-annex -- a process known as reduction of boundaries -- and to change the basic structure of Pasco's government from one overseen by a city manager and city council to one with an elected mayor and city council.

He added that those votes would be taken at Pasco's expense, likening annexation to a "diaper you soiled yourself."

"Your new residents will never forget what you did to them and that you did not trust them enough to give them a vote," Lenk said.

A number of people who attended Monday's hearing expressed displeasure with the annexation method chosen by the city using powers of attorney some doughnut hole residents signed in exchange for city water service.

People in the audience said they felt coerced into signing the agreements and didn't understand why the city wouldn't let them vote on annexation.

Colleen Wright, who moved to the area from Alaska in 2005, said she and her husband were upset to learn they'd have to give the city a power of attorney agreeing to annexation in order to get water.

"Maybe because we spent all those years in Alaska, but it didn't go well with us at all," Wright said. "We shouldn't have the right to vote on something taken away because we sign a document to get water."

City Manager Gary Crutchfield said that state law allows annexation by several different methods, and the state Supreme Court has ruled that use of utility agreements is a valid way to annex territory.

Crutchfield said the city wasn't putting annexation to a vote because the city had put people on notice since the '90s that they would have to agree to annexation if they wanted city water.

And the city has spent money on a fire station on Road 68, improvements to the water system in the doughnut hole and took over Chiawana Park from the county in the intervening years, all in preparation for that area eventually becoming part of Pasco, Crutchfield said.

Attendees also raised questions about zoning and code enforcement in the city versus the county.

Crutchfield answered that little would change under city rules.

A few people who spoke said they're OK with annexation.

"I do believe at the end of the day it's our human nature not to like change, but I think if you strip away the emotions ... we will be better served," said Erin Kniveton, who lives on North Road 67. "I do not want to be incorporated."

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