Doughnut hole resolution aided by city, county talks

With much to consider regarding the potential annexation by Pasco of a doughnut hole of county land, we see a positive trend: All the stakeholders are talking.

Whether it be residents of the area, a fire district that would have its role substantially changed, the city or Franklin County, all parties are at least looking at the possibility and expressing their thoughts and concerns.

It will be impossible to make everyone happy. Whether the land is annexed or not, some faction will be disappointed by the results.

But the worst outcomes can be avoided by efforts to identify and mitigate the stakeholders' concerns. So far, the process appears to be on that path.

A change in the state process for annexations allows a city to ask a county and a fire district for an agreement of annexation. It looks as if Franklin County commissioners plan to start discussions with Pasco about the future of a chunk of land between Sylvester and Argent roads and roads 52 and 100.

While many residents enjoy the rural setting in the heart of west Pasco and attribute their lifestyle to county rule, life in the doughnut hole does have its drawbacks.

Ordinances that apply to neighboring landowners don't cross boundaries, creating struggles in many areas including animal control, for example. These doughnut holes become a nightmare for counties and cities to manage as the population density and accompanying infrastructure improvements develop around them.

And even though many residents at a recent meeting said they were against annexation of the two-mile area, most raised their hands in support of the negotiation process.

That really is the only way to figure out the details about potential drawbacks and benefits for residents. And it's refreshing that the stakeholders seem to understand that, even though some don't want annexation to be the eventual outcome.

We understand some of the sticking points brought up by county residents. They enjoy the county's requirement for large lots and the fact that they can have livestock.

And we can understand wanting to extend grandfather rights to those conditions as long as the existing property owner remains in place. But we think asking for that in perpetuity is shortsighted and unrealistic.

What most everyone can agree on is that an annexation would take careful planning to be successful. The effect on Fire District 3 would be huge. Operations would be shifted north of Pasco, and the district would lose the property taxes from the doughnut hole, potentially placing more of a financial burden on the remaining district residents. But there are ideas on how to minimize that impact as well.

Franklin County commissioners have not taken an official vote on the topic, but want to meet with Pasco so they have more information to share with residents at the next public hearing.

It sounds like a good approach to us. As long as all everyone is willing to talk, a reasonable solution to this tough problem remains possible.