Group opposes annexing 'doughnut hole' in Pasco

All but a few people in the crowd of 125 Franklin County residents stood Wednesday to show they were against annexing a two-mile area into the city of Pasco.

But a majority of them raised their hands in support of starting the negotiation process with the city.

Franklin County commissioners didn't take an official vote Wednesday but indicated they intend to talk with Pasco about annexing the so-called "doughnut hole" of county land.

They said they will bring the results back to a public hearing after listening to comments from residents who packed the county courthouse's historic courtroom for the meeting.

Under a new law, a city can ask a county and fire district to create an agreement for annexation.

The county had until Sept. 8 to respond to Pasco's request to begin talks about the "doughnut hole" area, most of which is between Sylvester and Argent roads and roads 52 and 100. The area is home to about 4,000 people.

A few people in attendance asked commissioners to talk to the city and fire district. One man said he would like commissioners to see if it would be possible to delay the annexation and have all two miles annexed at once to help Franklin Fire District 3 and give citizens time to fight it.

Commissioner Brad Peck said it would appear uncooperative and unprofessional if the county did not at least listen to the city's offer.

The process is an alternative to having cities annex an area through signed agreements with property owners who have 60 percent of the assessed value in the area.

The city already can annex two portions of the doughnut hole because those landowners holding 60 percent or more of the assessed property value already have signed an agreement to not oppose annexation when they hooked up to city water.

Franklin Fire District 3 officials have said an unplanned annexation of the doughnut hole would make it difficult for the district to maintain service without having property tax levy rate increases for remaining taxpayers.

An interlocal agreement could mean the city would share revenue with the fire district during a transition period. Officials said this could make it possible for them to lower the amount of property taxes they receive, which could help them to avoid a levy rate increase for other district residents.

Peck said it does not appear that they could negotiate an agreement that would guarantee a minimum lot size and livestock use in perpetuity.

Mark MacFarlan, who lives in the doughnut hole, said if lot size and timing can't be negotiated, then talking with the city is a waste of time.

MacFarlan said the residents can fight annexation, either by hiring an attorney to challenge the water agreements or by petitioning to get out of the city after being annexed.

Residents said they don't want to pay infrastructure costs or to hook up to water or sewer if wells or septic systems were viable, and they want the current low density.

Roger Bettencourt, who has lived in the doughnut hole for six years, said he purchased his property because he fell in love with the area.

"If I wanted to live in the city, I would have bought in the city," he said.