A 155-acre “municipal island” in Kent with about 380 homes and 950 people could become part of the city of Auburn.
Known as the Bridges neighborhood, the single-family homes are in the city limits of Kent but sit on land surrounded by the city of Auburn. The property is along 124th Avenue Southeast between Southeast 288th and 304th streets. Auburn Mountainview High School is just north of the Kent property.
“People who live there assume they live in Auburn,” said Matt Gilbert,Kent’s deputy director of economic and community development, at an April 8 Kent City Council committee meeting. “They are confused about police, fire and council representation. It’s come to a point where the two mayors have spoken about it and asked us to explore it.”
Kent Mayor Dana Ralph and Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus have directed their staffs to look into what it would take for the neighborhood to be part of Auburn rather than Kent.
Kent bought the property in the 1980s for a water reservoir to meet the city’s future needs, Gilbert said. But the city found another water source and sold the property to the Kirkland-based YarrowBay Group. The development was initially known as Verdana but later changed to the Bridges when built by Oakpointe Communities, formerly known as YarrowBay.
In 2010, several Auburn residents testified before the city of Kent hearing examiner in opposition to the development because the initial plan included about 75,000 square feet of commercial development. But plans for commercial space never took off, and Gilbert said the developer now wants to build multifamily housing instead on the remaining undeveloped property.
Auburn city staff plans to contact residents of the neighborhood to educate them about the annexation process and how services and taxes would change, Gilbert said. Kent staff also is exploring issues related to sewer and water utility responsibilities that may need to be addressed before the change is made, according to city documents.
An estimated 950 people live in the Bridges, Gilbert said. He said a census will be taken as part of the annexation process. Staff also will compile information for the council about how much tax revenue Kent will lose.
The Auburn City Council must pass a resolution to annex the area, and Kent needs to de-annex the property. The Washington State Boundary Review Board for King County also needs to approve the property change to Auburn from Kent. The board will only hold a public hearing if a resident or a jurisdiction petitions against annexation.
“As much as I hate to lose the revenue, I think it’s the right thing to do,” Kent City Councilwoman Marli Larimer said at the committee meeting.
Larimer and Councilwoman Satwinder Kaur said they have heard from people in the Bridges neighborhood.
“I’ve had conversations with them, and they want to be part of Auburn,” Kaur said. “They feel like they are in the city of Auburn.”
The developer’s plans for multifamily housing could complicate the annexation process, but Gilbert said the developer will meet with the city of Auburn to help figure out plans.
Council President Bill Boyce asked Gilbert when the annexation may occur.
“Our goal is by the end of the year to have this done,” Gilbert said. “It depends on how quick the city of Auburn wants to move.”