A plan presented to the Pasco City Council on Monday could let the city take a bite out of opposition to the proposed "doughnut hole" annexation.
The council during a workshop heard options for blocking residents of an island of Franklin County land surrounded by west Pasco from forming their own small city -- an effort in turn designed to stop Pasco from bringing those residents and their homes into city limits against their wishes.
Pasco about a year ago announced its intentions to annex the roughly 4-square-mile area known as the "doughnut hole" using authority granted by utility agreements a majority of residents signed as they connected to city water and sewer lines.
The agreements gave the city power of attorney to sign annexation petitions on behalf of those residents, but not everyone living within the area proposed for annexation signed agreements, and some people have claimed they either were coerced into signing or didn't understand what they were signing.
Instead of going ahead with the annexation using the utility agreements, the city in September 2011 entered into talks with Franklin County and Fire District 3 to hammer out an annexation plan under a state law that permits annexation without commitments from individual property owners.
But Franklin County has been a hesitant participant in talks and hasn't responded to agreement terms offered up in October, according to a Thursday staff report from Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield.
In the meantime, vocal opposition sprung up among some residents of the doughnut hole, culminating in their declaration in May that they wanted to form their own city rather than be annexed.
Crutchfield told the council Monday that the proposed new city needs at least 3,000 residents to be eligible for an incorporation vote.
About 4,000 people live in the doughnut hole, but Crutchfield said the city can use the utility agreements to annex enough land to absorb more than 1,000 of those residents -- leaving fewer than 3,000 in the unincorporated area and killing their efforts to form a new city.
Crutchfield said a new city surrounded by Pasco would be a drain on Pasco taxpayers, as doughnut hole residents likely would use city services -- such as its streets and parks -- without paying into the city's coffers.
He added that a new city -- comprised entirely of residences -- wouldn't have a sufficient tax base to pay for services such as police patrols without almost immediately raising taxes significantly.
Those residents would be better off being annexed, he said.
"It's not a very rational thing to do, frankly, from a public expenditure standpoint," Crutchfield said. "It's like the Costco analogy -- if you want the benefits, you have to pay the membership fee, and the membership fee is annexation."
The Pasco council likely will consider starting annexation at its meeting next week, with a public hearing to follow within a month.
Franklin County will have a public meeting about the new city proposal at 7 p.m. Wednesday at TRAC.