Pasco is planning to take another bite out of the "doughnut hole."
The city council made the "continued orderly annexation" of the unincorporated area surrounded by west Pasco one of its goals at its biennial retreat Saturday at the Pasco Red Lion Hotel. No specific area was given for the next annexation, but City Manager Gary Crutchfield said about a third of the remaining doughnut hole can be annexed because 60 percent of residents in the area have signed agreements to receive city water.
The city should try to eliminate the entire doughnut hole within 10 years, said Crutchfield, who plans to retire in June.
"The sooner that happens, the sooner Pasco is a unified community," he told the council. "The longer you let that fester, the more trouble it is financially and politically."
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The city tried to work with the county and Franklin Fire District 3 officials in 2011, but was unable to agree on an annexation plan. The city council annexed about half of the doughnut hole's 4,000 residents in 2012, thwarting an effort by annexation opponents to create a contract city called Riverview. State law requires a new city to have at least 3,000 residents.
Crutchfield warned the council Saturday of the still-unincorporated area possibly growing large enough to someday again try incorporation. So he hopes to see the city annex it piece by piece if needed.
Franklin County will eventually find it too expensive to maintain what's left of the doughnut hole if it becomes too small, Crutchfield said.
"I would keep that doughnut hole as small as it has to be," he said. "Once it gets small enough, that would be the time to take it to the county and say, 'Let's finish this.' "
Annexation opponents have still not given up on fighting the last incorporation, said Roger Lenk, whose group, Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation, filed a lawsuit against the city in 2012. That suit, which has yet to be heard, said some of the utility agreements the city used to initiate the annexation were not valid because they were not properly notarized.
Pasco should listen to its residents, the way the Kennewick City Council did last week when it denied a request to annex 21 acres west of Gum Street and south of 15th Avenue after 15 people spoke against it, said Lenk, who didn't attend the council retreat.
"They need to have an election," he said. "It needs to be just for the people who are annexed. Otherwise there is just going to be more fighting."
Attempts to annex unwilling residents hurts Pasco, Lenk said.
"All it does is drive business away from coming to Pasco when people see the type of government that is not willing to do the will of the people," he said. "Or even ask the will of the people."
Lenk was among the organizers of a successful petition to place a proposition on the ballot last November that would have deannexed the area recently brought into the city. But the proposition was rejected by 70 percent of Pasco voters, including almost 60 percent of people in the recently annexed areas.
The election showed that the outcry about annexation was created by a small group of people, Councilwoman Rebecca Francik said.
Council discussed whether putting annexation as a goal could be seen as a signal for opponents to mobilize, but Francik said that doing so will let people considering moving to the area know they could soon be part of the city.
"That way the new people that come in won't be so angry," she said.
Councilman Tom Larsen disagreed with Crutchfield, who said the city has additional expenses from emergency workers serving the doughnut hole area.
"Make friends with the doughnut hole people, that's what we need to do," Larsen, who voted against annexation in 2012, said.
The city will have to have a better organized annexation if Councilman Al Yenney is to support it. Yenney, who also voted against annexation, does not want to see a repeat of previous patchwork annexations, where some neighbors were in the city next to homes in the unincorporated county.
"If you do a planned annexation on a street, top to bottom, I think you'll have way more support," he said.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom