Franklin County commissioners want to know if lawsuit will stop doughnut hole annexation

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 10, 2013 

Franklin County commissioners on Wednesday asked whether an ongoing lawsuit over Pasco's recent annexation of part of the "doughnut hole" area leaves the annexation in limbo.

Commissioner Brad Peck asked Ryan Verhulp, the deputy prosecutor who serves as the county's attorney, if the annexation went into effect Jan. 1 -- as Pasco intended -- or if the lawsuit means it's still just pending.

"I don't know which one trumps the other," Peck said.

Verhulp didn't immediately have an answer.

"I'll get you a written opinion," he said.

But Roger Lenk, a leader within the Citizens For Lifestyle Preservation group that sued seeking to block the annexation, told commissioners at the Wednesday meeting that the group's position is that the litigation leaves everything up in the air.

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 Pasco growth since the '90s.

The city council voted 5-2 on Oct. 29 to annex part of the doughnut hole between Road 52 and Road 68, south of a Franklin County Irrigation District canal.

The vote was intended to block efforts by Citizens For Lifestyle Preservation to incorporate the doughnut hole as a new city called Riverview. Incorporation proponents gathered enough petition signatures to put the question to a vote, but state law requires that the new city have at least 3,000 residents, and the October annexation vote pulled about 1,400 of the doughnut hole's 4,000 residents into Pasco effective Jan. 1.

But Lenk said a judge could yet overturn the annexation, leaving the incorporation petition in play.

"The residents of Riverview will continue to fight annexation," Lenk said. "It is our position that the incorporation petition remains valid as long as we have litigation."

That leaves commissioners in an awkward position, since they're required to have a public hearing on the incorporation petition. They voted in December to postpone the hearing until Jan. 23.

But the lawsuit still could be going when that date comes. A hearing scheduled in the suit on Monday was postponed, and the city is seeking summary judgment -- basically a ruling from the judge that the facts are in the city's favor and the case shouldn't go to trial.

The city already lost a motion to dismiss the case in December.

Also Wednesday:

w Commissioners voted unanimously to add up to $150,000 to the 2012 budget for TRAC to account for additional revenues and expenses from unexpected business the Pasco event center saw during the year.

TRAC Manager Troy Woody told commissioners the center likely wouldn't need the full $150,000, but that all of December's bills haven't come in yet.

He added that year-end projections show TRAC about $300,000 in the negative instead of the $400,000 that had been projected.

Franklin County and Pasco subsidize losses at the event center.

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