Covington City Council backs effort to bring Jenkins Creek Notch into UGA

Covington has decided to throw its support behind expanding the urban growth area in order to create a more logical city boundary as well as a space that could potentially be home to businesses such as Target and Lowe’s.

Covington has decided to throw its support behind expanding the urban growth area in order to create a more logical city boundary as well as a space that could potentially be home to businesses such as Target and Lowe’s.

Mayor Margaret Harto has sent a letter on behalf of the City Council. The council approved it following the presentation of a Northern Gateway Study at its Aug. 14 meeting, which stated it supported bringing the 275-acre Jenkins Creek Notch into the UGA. That would then allow Covington to annex it along with another set of parcels across state Route 18.

The goal of the study was to find out if it’s a good idea to move one section of land from rural to urban in order for the two sites — both located off the 256th exit of state Route 18 on either side of the freeway — to be developed in the future by their respective owners. The entire Northern Gateway Study area, which is bisected by SR 18, takes in 484 acres and is surrounded on three sides by the city of Covington.

Known for years as the Northern Notch, the 275-acre chunk of land bounded by state Route 18 and Southeast Wax Road to the south and north then 180th Avenue Southeast on the west, has been on the city of Covington’s potential annexation area list known as PAA No. 4.

Barry Anderson, a Covington resident whose company BranBar owns 70 acres in the Notch, submitted an application in 2011 to the county to get the UGA boundary changed.

Covington Community Development Director Richard Hart said this is not the first time Anderson has pleaded his case to the County Council.

In 2004 and 2008, Anderson requested that the entire Jenkins Creek Notch be brought into the urban growth area, but was denied.

Hart said previously the City Council didn’t support those efforts because they didn’t have enough information about it and the timing wasn’t ideal to do a study such as was recently completed.

“They really wanted to study the area like this … to find out what exactly existed there, what the issues were,” Hart said. “We wanted to go into detail of the specific King County policies. We wanted to have good rationale. The county said, ‘We’d really rather deal with this when you know what the city’s position is.’”

Both property owners involved funded the study, Hart said.

In late April the city hired Seattle-based economic consultant Stalzer and Associates to put together a study evaluated a number of things.

It included an economic and fiscal analysis as well as a buildable lands update which are the primary concerns for King County.

Those countywide policies that such decisions are based on drove the study, Hart said, specifically six criteria. The study found the city met five of the six criteria.

What wasn’t met had to do with buildable lands that is based on housing and jobs growth targets but making decisions on that data is precarious, at best, Hart said, because it is not all collected in sync so it is not all current enough to provide accurate projections.

“It has become evident through the course of this study that there are a few unintended consequences placed upon the city as a result of the outdated 2031 growth targets give to the city under the 2007 (buildable lands report),” Harto’s letter to the County Council stated. “Numerous mitigating factors suggest those targets may have been allocated below the trends that were occurring in southeast King County at that time. Those targets are no longer appropriate given the economic growth seen in our city over the past five years.”

During the past four years, while nearby communities struggled as a result of the recession, Hart said, Covington has gained jobs.

“A lot of it is driven by two things,” Hart said. “The health care industry: we’re the medical provider of southeast King County, that’s driving a lot of things in Covington. The other thing we are in Covington is a regional retail service center for southeast King County and that has come since Costco opened.”

That growth has demonstrated that projections for 2006-2031 were far too low and it has driven a greater need for space, according to the letter, for homes and retail.

“Much of our downtown commercial land lends itself to more infill development with small commercial and office buildings and is intended to provide a sense of place to the Covington community,” the letter stated. “The available vacant or re-developable properties in downtown are not conducive to locate a future retail center and the city is responding to the needs and desires of our residents to shop locally and create a reduced carbon footprint by not driving many miles for regional retail services.”

In addition, the letter further argues the point that the city’s boundary is not logical.

“The Notch is surrounded on three sides by the City of Covington and development patterns are similar to those found across the street within the city limits,” the letter said. “This irregular city boundary makes little sense as the Notch is a peninsula jutting into the existing city limits. Common sense suggests that the Notch should have been within the original city limits of Covington upon its incorporation in 1997 since the land is very similar to surrounding properties that were included in the original city limits.”

Ultimately, Hart said, the city is attempting to appeal to the County Council member’s common sense.

The County Council will consider bringing one of the parcels into the urban growth boundary as part of its comprehensive plan update.

“The letter was sent to the King County Council members because ultimately they are the decision makers,” Hart said. “However, prior to the King County Council making that decision, a couple other things have to happen.”

First, Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Wagner and Councilman Wayne Snoey will take the city’s case to the Growth Management Planning Council, which is made up of a cross section of community members including local elected officials from King County, Sept. 11, followed by County Council subcommittee meetings set for Sept. 12 and Sept. 19.

The subcommittee will consider the study, and both bodies will forward their recommendations to the County Council which Hart said will likely vote in late September on the proposed UGA change as part of its comprehensive plan update which the county does every four years.

“We’re appealing to them that the original decision for Covington’s boundaries were set improperly,” Hart said. “It should’ve been a part of Covington 14 years ago and it should be a part of Covington now.”

To view the entire study log on to, click on “Northern Gateway Study” under Quick Links on the left hand side of the page, then scroll down and click on “Final Phase 1 Documents.”