With the Pasco City Council poised tonight to start the process for annexing part of the area known as the "doughnut hole," city officials are trying to dispel what they say are some prevalent myths about the annexation.
In particular, city officials say property taxes for doughnut hole residents won't increase, current land use will be allowed to continue and doughnut hole residents will be allowed to keep farm animals if their land is annexed.
Pasco about a year ago announced its intentions to annex the 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.
Instead of going ahead with the annexation using the utility agreements, the city has pursued an annexation agreement with Fire District 3 and Franklin County.
But after some residents of the doughnut hole said they wanted to form their own city rather than be annexed, City Manager Gary Crutchfield suggested the city go ahead and use the utility agreements to start annexing part of the doughnut hole.
Crutchfield told the council a week ago 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.
That is the process the council will talk about starting tonight, but some doughnut hole residents said at a public meeting last week that they will force a de-annexation vote at the city's expense if the council moves ahead.
Other comments made at last week's meeting led the city to release a statement attempting to dispel what it says are myths about the proposed annexation.
-- Property taxes: City officials said Pasco property owners in 2011 paid a tax rate 6.1 percent less than what residents of the doughnut hole paid, largely because city residents don't pay extra taxes for road maintenance, libraries or fire protection. Residents in annexed areas also are not required to pay the taxes for bonds approved by voters before they were annexed.
-- Zoning: The statement said current and future owners can continue any use after annexation that is permitted in the zoning code. Uses that aren't permitted can continue by current owners as "non-conforming uses." Non-conforming uses also can be continued by future owners as long as the use isn't abandoned for 12 or more continuous months.
-- Farm animals: The city said city and county zoning regarding farm animals is identical, with the exception that the city limits residents to owning 40 chickens, ducks or rabbits.
In addition to the questions about taxes, land use and farm animals, the statement said residents won't be forced to pay for sidewalks, curbs or streetlights, nor will they be required to install city sewer service.
The city claims residents will benefit from annexation by having lower costs for solid waste and water services, faster emergency response from police and fire and lower costs for ambulance rides, better fire protection as more fire hydrants are installed, discounts for recreation programs for city residents compared to non-residents, the ability to vote for city council members and on city issues, and lower homeowner insurance rates.