Bridges neighborhood moves closer to annexation

Area with 386 homes is located in Kent, but surrounded by Auburn.

You may have passed by the Bridges neighborhood and its 386 homes many times and seen nothing unusual.

After all, what sets this Lea Hill neighborhood apart from others is not visible to the naked eye, but it is important: it is an island of the city of Kent surrounded on all sides by the city of Auburn.

At Monday evening’s Auburn City Council work session at City Hall, Community Development Director Jeff Tate presented the draft of a resolution that formally launches Auburn’s part of the complicated process of removing the Bridges community from Kent’s jurisdiction and incorporating it into Auburn, an action that has the approval of both cities and the communities involved.

“A lot of people have done a lot of work … [over] a lot of years to get to this night,” Tate told the council.

At 7 p.m. Sept. 18, that resolution comes before the Auburn City Council, which will authorize city staff to file a notice of annexation with the Boundary Review Board for King County. That resolution, “an initiating action,” as Tate called it, would set a complex process into motion, requiring not only annexation of the Bridges neighborhood into Auburn, but its de-annexation from Kent.

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Tate said.

The area within the dotted line is a Kent neighborhood known as The Bridges, completely surrounded by Auburn. (COURTESY IMAGE)

The area within the dotted line is a Kent neighborhood known as The Bridges, completely surrounded by Auburn. (COURTESY IMAGE)

The City of Kent annexed this area in 1987 before Auburn’s annexation of Lea Hill in 2008. Prior to Auburn’s annexation, the Bridges was just a portion of Kent that was not contiguous to its city boundaries. Auburn’s annexation of Lea Hill 21 years later was an action that created this island of Kent surrounded by Auburn.

Seeing to it that all of the gears mesh on the annexation has been the goal of many people in recent years, and the subject of numerous discussions between the cities.

In August 2022, Kent and Auburn staff attended the Bridges National Night Out event to help answer questions and to encourage residents to take part in a survey tooled to help both cities understand how residents of the community felt about annexation. With 144 individual surveys completed, the results indicated that about 70% of the residents either supported the annexation into Auburn or were indifferent.

In November 2022, the Bridges Homeowners’ Association voted unanimously in favor of the annexation.

Here’s what the resolution before council next week would trigger.

The first crucial step would be the submission of an application to the Boundary Review Board of King County, which state law requires. This case is unusual in that, typically, annexation brings unincorporated land into a city. Here, both cities must submit applications to the board — Kent for deannexation, and Auburn for annexation.

That BRB application gives agencies a chance to participate and/or voice concern over annexations. For example, this particular annexation will result in a taxing district and service shift from the Puget Sound Fire Authority to the Valley Regional Fire Authority. The PSFA will lose some revenue and VRFA will gain some revenue to meet the added demand. Staff from both cities have engaged the two fire authorities, and both agencies have expressed support related to the annexation, Tate said.

The BRB process ensures that the King County Assessor is aware of the change and can adjust tax rates in the affected area. Likewise, it ensures that King County Elections is equipped to modify voting districts to reflect the change. For example, in 2024, residents of the Bridges should be voting for City of Auburn officials and initiatives instead of City of Kent officials and initiatives.

City of Auburn staff have worked on the development of comprehensive plan and zoning amendments in preparation for annexation so that there are land use controls in place should annexation occur. Comprehensive plan and zoning amendments are included in the 2023 Auburn Comprehensive Plan’s annual docket of amendments that will be under consideration by the Planning Commission in the coming weeks.

An interlocal agreement between the two cities will address some of the mechanics of the change, including the transferring of official records.

For instance, if someone owns a price of property in one community and has applied to his or her department for a building permit to add a deck, the interlocal agreement would address how to proceed if the area is in the middle of a transition from one city to another. It also addresses rights of way and utility properties, among other things.

The interlocal agreement will be added to the Auburn City Council’s projected agenda for Oct. 2. Staff have been at work preparing for zoning and land use designation to be in place should annexation occur, and Auburn’s Planning Commission will play its part.