Pasco's doughnut hole fate goes to vote

Tri-City HeraldOctober 29, 2013 

Pasco Proposition 2

Voters in Pasco have a chance this election to cast their ballots concerning a change in their form of city government.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

-- Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-day series on propositions facing Pasco voters Nov. 5. A story on Proposition 2 will be published Thursday.

Pasco residents will decide Tuesday if two areas formerly in the unincorporated “doughnut hole” will stay part of the city.

Proposition 1, which requires 60-percent approval, asks voters if they want to allow the recently annexed areas to unincorporate.

The issue has divided the west Pasco community, where residents are split over lifestyle and service issues in the one-square-mile area already surrounded by Pasco.

Annexation supporter Jeff Hendler said a task force of supporters and opponents met for five evenings to talk about the issues and concerns of county vs. city life. They compared taxes, fees and services.

He said they came up with just two key differences — dogs have to be licensed in the city and kept on a leash when they’re not on their owners’ property and semi-trucks can’t park in residential areas of Pasco.

“Every other concept of living would remain exactly the same,” contended Hendler, who was one of the county residents recently annexed into the city.

But annexation opponents disagree. They fear they’ll be forced to pay for more city services. And they’re angry that Pasco forced them to become part of the city without allowing them to vote.

The annexations became possible after 60 percent of residents in the annexed areas previously signed agreements to receive city water. The agreements required the residents to give up their right to oppose annexation.

The city has controlled the water in the area since Pasco bought the West Pasco Rural Water District in 1991. At the time, the city was asked to buy the private 700-customer water system for about $1.5 million to make sure residents continued to receive water.

The purchase of the water district was opposed by some residents of the Riverview area even back then.

But an advisory ballot measure in May 1991 made it clear that the sale would “likely lead to future annexation to the city of Pasco,” according to Herald archives. That measure failed 1,286 to 449, according to the Franklin County Auditor’s Office.

Annexation opponent Jan Tomlinson said Proposition 1 gives annexed residents the chance she feels they should have had all along to vote on whether to be part of Pasco.

Some of the newly annexed residents didn’t sign the agreements, but enough of their neighbors had in the past that they were brought into the city along with them.

Using the water agreements, Pasco annexed the first 41 acres in 2009. That included land near Road 76 and Court Street.

Then last year, the city council in a split vote annexed 608 acres and 1,450 residents. That generally included the area between roads 52 and 68, north of Sylvester Street and south of the Franklin County Irrigation District canal.

A group called Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation, co-founded by Roger Lenk and Mark MacFarlan, collected 1,780 signatures to place the proposition on next week’s ballot. All Pasco residents will vote on the measure, not just voters in the annexed areas.

Supporters of the annexation argue the now-annexed areas have been part of Pasco’s urban growth area designation since 1992. But Tomlinson said that Pasco’s growth has been largely on the city’s north side, with residents in the western part wanting to continue their rural lifestyle.

“Many people raise horses and livestock and grow agricultural crops and vineyards,” she said. “These properties still do not fit the dense Pasco long-range housing plan of six to eight homes per acre.”

City officials have said there are no plans to change the zoning in those areas, allowing people to keep their animals and farms. And city residents are not required to have city water, but Pasco doesn’t allow residents to drill new wells on less than an acre.

Before last year’s annexation, Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation attempted to create a city of Riverview to keep the doughnut hole from being annexed. But that effort ended when the city annexed enough of the residents to prevent them from forming a new city. They would have needed at least 3,000 people to incorporate under state law.

Tomlinson said even if Proposition 1 is approved, they no longer are considering creating their own town.

“We aren’t going there,” she said. “It’s over with.”

Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield said the annexed areas are responsible for about $300,000 a year in property tax revenue for the city.

Should the measure pass and the areas return to the county, the city would still be able to annex areas where 60 percent of people signed the water agreements, he said.

“I wouldn’t do that (right away), but those agreements would stay in place for the future,” he said.

But MacFarlan said he hopes the city would reconsider before trying to annex the area again.

“I hope the city would understand that individuals do have the right to self-determination,” he said.

-- For more election stories, go to -- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543;; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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