The Bridges: An Unusual Annexation Is Moving Forward
September 28, 2023
The Auburn City Council is moving forward with Resolution 5736 in order to trigger several procedures and actions designed to result in The Bridges being annexed into the city of Auburn on January 1, 2024. The Bridges is a partially-built-out enclave of 386 homes in the city of Kent, but it is totally surrounded by the City of Auburn.
For several years, the cities of Auburn and Kent have been discussing the possibility of making The Bridges part of the city of Auburn.
The legal process to accomplish that result would require the city of Kent to “de-annex” the property, and for the city of Auburn to “annex” The Bridges into Auburn. Transferring the property from Kent to Auburn has been stymied due to several unresolved issues.
So, in January 2022, Auburn city staff identified a list of questions and issues that needed to be resolved. Over the next eight months, city staff from both Kent and Auburn worked to address the issues, including attending The Bridges National Night Out event, and encouraging residents to participate in a survey to help the cities understand how residents view annexation of The Bridges into Auburn. Approximately 1/3 of the households completed the survey, which disclosed that more than 2/3 of the residents either supported the annexation into Auburn, or were indifferent. Then, in November of 2022, the Bridges HOA voted unanimously in favor of The Bridges becoming part of the City of Auburn.
With that background as a basis to move forward, the city staffs began preparing an “Initiating Resolution” and an “Interlocal Agreement” for both cities to approve. The documents specify how assets (such as roads and utilities) will be transferred to Auburn, as well as plans for the management of open permits, code enforcement cases, custody of public records, etc.
In addition, an annexation application has been prepared for review by the King County Boundary Review Board, which conducts a public process to allow airing of any concerns as required under state law. This annexation of The Bridges into Auburn will result in a taxing district and service shift from the Puget Sound Fire Authority (PSF) to the Valley Regional Fire Authority (VRFA). PSF will experience a loss in revenue while VRFA will experience an increase in demand. Even so, city officials indicate both fire authority agencies are supportive of the annexation. Additionally, the County Assessor will also need to adjust the tax rates in the affected area. It also ensures that King County Elections is equipped to modify voting districts to reflect the change (e.g. in 2024 residents of the Bridges should be voting for City of Auburn officials and initiatives instead of City of Kent officials and initiatives).
In anticipation of adding The Bridges area to the city, Auburn staff have worked on the development of comprehensive plan and zoning amendments so that there will be land use controls in place if annexation is to occur. Those comprehensive plan and zoning amendments are currently included in the Auburn 2023 Comprehensive Plan annual docket of amendments.
Prior to the end of the year, the City of Kent will also consider action on a resolution that concludes the annexation process. In the meantime:
- Auburn and Kent will jointly submit applications to the King County Boundary Review Board (BRB), triggering a process that allows special taxing districts to be notified and to participate in the annexation process. The BRB will either invoke jurisdiction, or not. If the Board does not invoke jurisdiction, the process will take 45 days and conclude on November 13. If the Board does invoke jurisdiction, the process will take 120 days. Invoking jurisdiction would preclude the ability to have the annexation go into effect on January 1, 2024.
- Auburn staff will introduce comprehensive plan land use designation recommendations to the Planning Commission, which will hold a public hearing. The City Council will also likely consider the matter before the end of the year.
The City of Kent is also expected to hold a public hearing and consider final action to complete annexation, enact the ILA, and transfer assets and records to Auburn.