The decision to push Pasco's boundaries westward with the new Interstate 182 proved to be a boon to the Tri-Cities over the last 30 years.
The extension of city services to farmlands on the western plateau set the stage for a period of phenomenal growth that helped the Mid-Columbia avoid much of the economic troubles that have plagued the rest of the nation.
It's too bad Pasco and Franklin County didn't figure out a way to expand city limits without creating an island of county land. Any controversy generated by annexing the so-called doughnut hole back then would be long forgotten by now.
Instead, the city is embroiled in debate over the future of a massive parcel that stretches from Road 40 to Road 100 and is home to about 4,000 people.
We're not surprised to see the dispute focus more on emotions than facts. Folks get emotional about their homes, especially those who have managed to create a rural haven in the midst of a growing urban community.
But viewed under the cold glare of reason, most arguments against annexation tend to fade away.
Two facts seem incontrovertible. First, annexation is inevitable. Second, despite fears to the contrary, annexation won't change the rural lifestyle that residents enjoy.
No one who has moved into the doughnut hole in the past 20 years ought to be surprised by Pasco's interest in their property.
The land in question has been designated as an urban growth area under the state's Growth Management Act since 1992, and the city extended water and sewer services to the area with eventual annexation in mind.
Pasco has all the authorization it needs to annex two large parts of the doughnut hole, because at least 60 percent of the residents in those tracts signed agreements to join the city in trade for access to city services.
Some view such agreements as coercion, and they have a point. But the bigger issue is whether cities should extend water and sewer lines to unincorporated properties with no strings attached.
That hardly sounds reasonable. The annexation agreements advance the simple and fair notion that those who want city services should be willing to be part of the city.
What's more, Pasco has created policies that address the legitimate concerns of rural residents facing annexation.
Landowners in the doughnut want assurances they will be allowed to keep their horses and cows and continue using the land as they always have. And they want the same rules to apply subsequent owners.
The fact is, as long as current uses are permitted under the county's rules, they will continue to be allowed after annexation. That's true even when property changes hands.
The city wants to eliminate the administrative headache that pockets of unincorporated land creates, not force folks in the doughnut hole to change their lifestyles.
Concerns about tax increases are equally unfounded. In fact, taxes would go down slightly after annexation, from $13.85 per $1,000 of assessed value to $13.
The numbers can change from year to year, but there's no basis for claiming taxes would go up.
But rational arguments can't always sway opinions based on strong emotions. If Pasco councilmembers and Franklin County commissioners are waiting for opposition to go away before pursuing annexation, they will be waiting forever.
They ought to move expeditiously to bring the doughnut hole into the city and end the confusion over the delivery of services that unincorporated islands create.
Experience -- and Pasco has plenty of it with 21 residential annexations in west Pasco since 1996 -- suggests that once the dust settles, landowners will find their fears were baseless.