Doughnut hole lawsuit decision still coming

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldNovember 3, 2012 

Residents of the so-called doughnut hole are going to have to wait to see if their attempt to stop Pasco from annexing some Franklin County land surrounded by city boundaries has succeeded.

Superior Court Judge Carrie Runge did not make a decision Friday on whether to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation.

In the meantime, the clock is ticking toward annexation of enough of the doughnut hole to stop efforts by Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation to create the city of Riverview.

The Pasco City Council approved annexing a portion of the doughnut hole Monday in a 5-2 vote.

That move, effective Jan. 1, will absorb about 1,400 people into Pasco, enough of the 4,000 residents of the doughnut hole to stop incorporation efforts.

Lee Kerr, Pasco city attorney, argued the case should be dismissed because Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation's claims that the city mishandled the annexation process are unfounded.

The city dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's, he said.

The group simply doesn't understand the annexation process and filed its lawsuit too soon, Kerr said. It is using requirements that do not apply to the kind of annexation the city is doing.

"They simply fired the guns a little too early," he said.

But Laurie Magan, attorney for the Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation, claimed that Pasco failed to follow the proper procedures when it initiated annexation of part of the doughnut hole.

The residents' rights are at stake with this, she said. Their property rights could be damaged if annexation is allowed to continue.

Magan argued that some of the documents where residents signed a power of attorney for annexation in exchange for receiving city water are not complete.

"They played a little bit fast and loose with these procedures," she said.

Runge said part of the problem is that the state law is not clearly written. She said she would take what the attorneys had presented under consideration.

Magan told a group of about nine members of Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation after the court hearing that they could expect a written decision, hopefully by the end of the month.

She garnered a round of applause from the members.

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

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 in June to proceed with annexing a portion of the doughnut hole.

The Franklin County Auditor's Office found the petition was sufficient on Oct. 12. Residents had submitted 811 valid signatures, about three times the 268 required, according to county documents.

No date has been set for an incorporation vote.

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