Audience asks tough questions at Pasco "Donut Hole" forum

PASCO -- The city of Pasco continues its effort to persuade residents in the "Donut Hole" to accept annexation.

A public meeting was held Wednesday night for those who will likely be affected to learn more about the process. The city wants to annex a portion of the Donut Hole, known as Area 2.

But if the meeting was any indication, the battle is far from over.

The first question of the night was from a resident, asking: "Wouldn't it be just as simple to put this to a vote, and let the people make the decision?"

Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins answered, "I don't think a vote is the right way to go on this. I do think a public process where you hear the voice of anyone who wants to be heard is the right way to go."

Watkins was one of several city leaders in attendance at Mark Twain Elementary School, hoping to answer questions and ease concerns of neighbors facing annexation.

A special citizen committee spent the last half of the summer, clarifying a special chart to spell out exactly how residents could be impacted. It consists of both supporters and opponents of annexation.

The city is already moving forward on Area 2, saying it has enough utility agreements from homeowners. But many of those same homeowners say that shouldn't take the place of their vote on the matter.

A core group of Donut Hole residents have now filed another lawsuit against the city, hoping for an injunction to stop Pasco from partial annexation, until residents have their day on the ballot.

A judge is set to hear arguments from both sides on Monday.

The Pasco Planning Commission is meeting Thursday night to discuss zoning recommendations for Area 2. City Council will then make the final decision.

There is also a public hearing scheduled with the city on October 29th for Pasco leaders to hear both sides of the annexation argument.