Franklin County Superior Court Judge Carrie Runge has ruled that a lawsuit can proceed seeking to stop Pasco from annexing a portion of the "doughnut hole" area of Franklin County.
Members of Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation, a group of doughnut hole residents who have opposed annexation and proposed incorporating their own city called Riverview, filed the lawsuit in September to stop the annexation of an area between Road 52 and Road 68, south of a Franklin County Irrigation District canal.
The lawsuit claims that some of the utility agreements -- in which residents agreed to annexation in exchange for getting city water or sewer -- used to start the annexation process were invalid because they weren't properly notarized.
The city asked to have the case dismissed, arguing that it wasn't necessary to have the documents notarized, and that the people who filed the lawsuit misread the state's annexation law.
Although the Pasco City Council voted 5-2 in favor of annexing part of the doughnut hole Oct. 29, Judge Runge heard arguments in the lawsuit Nov. 2.
Runge said at the November hearing that the state law isn't clearly written.
In a letter dated Dec. 10 and provided to the Herald by Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation, Runge ruled the city hadn't met the criteria to have the case dismissed. She wrote that she couldn't rule on the validity of the utility agreements because she hadn't seen them.
Roger Lenk, an organizer for the doughnut hole group, said residents plan to press on with efforts to block the annexation and to form a new city.
Pasco City attorney Leland Kerr did not return a message left at his office Wednesday afternoon.
The city began public discussions in July 2011 about annexing the area, which has been earmarked for future city growth since the '90s.
The annexation is effective Jan. 1, and will absorb about 1,400 people into Pasco -- enough of the 4,000 residents of the doughnut hole to stop incorporation efforts. Incorporation requires a new city to have at least 3,000 people.
But Lenk and other members of Citizens For Lifestyle Preservation have said they plan to pursue another legal process -- called a reduction of city limits -- to essentially de-annex the area so they can incorporate.
Lenk told the Herald on Wednesday that the group soon will begin collecting signatures for the reduction petition.