City of Auburn to explore annexing Kent neighborhood

The Bridges housing development is completely surrounded by Auburn.

The nearly 1,000 people who live in the Bridges housing development in the city of Kent could be annexed to the city of Auburn.

The Auburn City Council approved a resolution April 18 for the city to explore annexing the property, which is part of Kent’s municipality, but surrounded entirely by Auburn. The Kent City Council adopted a resolution April 19 to explore de-annexation of the area.

Both steps would need to happen for the property to switch cities. The land is along 124th Avenue Southeast between Southeast 288th and 304th streets.

“What we will do next is talk directly to the Bridges neighborhood,” said Matt Gilbert, city of Kent deputy director of Economic and Community Development, at a council committee meeting. “We are hoping for expression of support or not, maybe a positive statement from the neighborhood to get their position on de-annexation and annexation.”

The Bridges housing development is in the city of Kent, but surrounded by properties in the city of Auburn. The 155 acres is part of a “municipal island” in Kent with 386 homes and about 1,000 residents. It includes 55 acres of open space and a 13-acre lot that allows for commercial, retail and residential use.

The Auburn council approved the resolution during its meeting April 18 after it was recommended by Director of Community Development Jeff Tate, who gave a presentation on the resolution during a previous council study session.

In 1987, the city of Kent bought the property for a potential water reservoir. But when the city arranged to get Green River water from the Tacoma Water utility, the city sold the property in 2004 to a developer. Then in 2008, Auburn annexed the Lea Hill neighborhood, which created the Bridges enclave.

The resolution passed by the Auburn council doesn’t mean the property will necessarily be annexed. It simply gives the city the authority to explore community interest in the annexation. This exploration will include talking with the Living at Bridges Homeowners Association and other stakeholders to gauge whether they support the annexation by Auburn.

“There will be a need for dialogue with the community, those who are affected by the annexation, those who own property there, those who live around the area,” Tate said.

Tate said the resolution is really just a starting point for opening dialogue with the stakeholders who would be affected by the annexation.

As it currently stands, residents of The Bridges neighborhood receive services from both cities, according to the City of Auburn. For example, Bridges residents receive sewer service from Auburn, but water service from Kent. Kent Police and Puget Sound Fire serve the area.

After the cities gather public feedback and more information, the Auburn City Council would have to vote to annex and the Kent City Council would have to vote to de-annex, Tate said.

That could take a matter of months, said Pat Fitzpatrick, city of Kent interim chief administrative officer.

City of Auburn and Kent staff began talking in 2018 about Auburn annexing the area.

In April 2021, Oakpointe Communities, of Bellevue, which built the single-home housing development, withdrew its application to the city of Kent for a controversial land use change that could allow the developer to build 150 townhouses near the Bridges neighborhood.

That decision came after the Kent City Council in March 2021 voted 4-3 against an ordinance to amend the city’s comprehensive land-use map to allow housing on the site.

“Oakpointe filed a comprehensive plan amendment for their site,” Gilbert said. “They ended up withdrawing it because of talks between Kent and Auburn. They have focused their efforts on the city of Auburn as far as what will happen with that land.”

This type of annexation is rare, Gilbert said.

“It’s a really unusual thing for a city to de-annex and another city to annex,” Gilbert said. “It’s often between cities and counties, but this is allowed under state law.”

Gilbert said Auburn and Kent city staff will determine cost and service impacts to residents to police and fire service, utility costs, garbage costs and other items.

“People who live there will have chance to provide feedback about where they want to live,” Kent City Council President Bill Boyce said. “If they want to be part of Auburn, it’ll be OK. Oakpointe will not do anything until jurisdiction takeover.”

Reporter Steve Hunter of the Kent Reporter contributed to this article.