It’s hello Auburn and goodbye Kent for about 1,000 people and 379 homes on 155 acres in the Bridges neighborhood.
In a rare annexation of property by one city into another city, the residents will join Auburn and leave Kent on Jan. 1, 2024. The Auburn City Council is scheduled for final approval of the annexation on Dec. 4.
The residents of Bridges wanted the change since they live on a municipal island of Kent surrounded by properties in the city of Auburn. The Bridges is in the Lea Hill area and is generally bound to the east by 124th Avenue SE, on the west by 118th Avenue SE, on the north by SE 288th Street and on the south by SE 304th Street.
Kirk Hiller, president of the Bridges Homeowners Association (HOA) board, and others look forward to the change of cities.
“The board believes our annexation to Auburn is a positive move for our community,” Hiller said in a Nov. 30 email. “We have been on an island surrounded by Auburn, with Auburn addresses, and it makes sense to have us part of the City of Auburn. The staff from both Auburn and Kent have been great to work with throughout this process, keeping us informed and updated, and have made themselves available when we have had questions or concerns. We appreciate all of the work put in by both cities and we are looking forward to finalizing the annexation.”
The Kent City Council on Nov. 28 unanimously approved a resolution to concur with the city of Auburn’s annexation of the Bridges. Auburn proposed to annex the property, which the King County Boundary Review Board approved.
Most annexations involve a city taking in land and people from an unincorporated part of a county, such as when Kent annexed the Panther Lake area in 2010, a move approved by Panther Lake voters.
In this tale of two cities, Kent bought the property in 1987 with plans for a 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, who later built the neighborhood. In 2008, Auburn annexed the Lea Hill neighborhood, which created the Bridges enclave.
City of Auburn and Kent staff began talking in 2018 about Auburn annexing the area and later got the approval from residents in the Bridges after a survey and several neighborhood meetings.
Hiller explained why residents want the change.
“In conversations with homeowners, a priority has been the need for resources for our community, such as fire and police,” Hiller said. “Over the years this has been an issue and we believe annexation to Auburn will improve response times and minimize confusion about which departments should be responding.
“Many of the families that live in The Bridges have kids that go to Auburn schools, and lending their voices to district issues is important. Being part of the City of Auburn will allow our community members to be more involved at the city level. Decisions made by Auburn directly affect our members and we look forward to being a part of the discussions that impact our community.”
Auburn Mountainview High School sits just east of the neighborhood.
Now with the property going to the city of Auburn, Bellevue developer Oakpointe Communities, which built the Bridges, is expected to bring back a proposal, possibly to build townhomes, on 13 vacant acres. The Kent City Council turned down a land-use ordinance in 2021 to allow the development. Oakpointe decided to wait to apply again until it was decided whether Auburn would annex the area.
Auburn city officials will decide how to zone the 13 undeveloped acres. The wetlands around the neighborhood will remain wetlands.
“We have not heard anything recently about plans for development,” said Hiller, with the HOA. “There have been several different plans mentioned in the past and I believe those plans have been on hold until the annexation is finalized.”
The residents still will get water from the city of Kent, but police and fire will switch to Auburn.
Kent Mayor Dana Ralph had mixed emotions about the change.
“I’m very sad we are losing a group of residents actively engaged in Kent,” Ralph said at the Nov. 28 council meeting. “They have served on boards and commissions, so I’m very sad to say goodbye to them. Auburn is receiving a very good community, people who want to make their city a better place.”
But Ralph said when Kent Police, Puget Sound Fire and city services had to travel through Auburn properties to get to the Bridges in Kent and then return to Kent through Auburn, the annexation is the right move.
“It just makes sense to clear up confusion and ability to provide services,” Ralph said.