AUBURN — Councilors worried Tuesday that a new citywide comprehensive plan is too complex and not business-friendly.
"I think it's confusing, and when people ask me to explain, how can I?" said Councilor Mike Farrell. "We seem to be restricting some businesses, but not others."
Farrell focused on zoning restrictions designed to keep automobile dealerships off Minot Avenue and land-use rules around Lake Auburn designed to protect the watershed by limiting development.
"I honestly look at this, and I see a very restrictive document," Farrell said. "It makes me wonder why people would ever want to work here, or live here."
Councilors hosted members of the Auburn Planning Board and the Comprehensive Plan Committee at a 5:30 p.m. workshop meeting. They've scheduled a second review workshop at 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 12, in the council chambers.
Councilors will host two public hearings on the document later this summer before voting to adopt a final plan. Copies of the plan are available at the Planning and Permitting Office. An electronic version is available for download on the city's website, www.auburnmaine.org.
Work on the new plan began in July 2007 with a group of 40 volunteers. It's designed to guide future council and Planning Board decisions on zoning, land use and economic development. It looks at all aspects of life in the city, including population, transportation trends, possible commercial development and public finances.
The city’s last plan was written in 1995 and was designed to guide planning and development decisions through 2005.
The plan is designed to shape development over the entire city, encouraging heavy growth in some areas, limited growth in some and no growth in others. It calls for directing large-scale retail development along the Auburn Mall area and Minot Avenue and would preserve a ban on new car dealers.
Farrell said businesses can have car repair shops, gasoline filling stations and lots holding cars repossessed by banks.
"But you can't have a car lot, and that doesn't make much sense, given the other uses," he said.
He also noted that the plan continued watershed protections around Lake Auburn. That's designed to preserve water quality in the lake and keep the Auburn Water District from having to pay for an expensive water-filtration system.
"It's a possibility we may have to build a water-filtration system anyway, but the plan doesn't mention this," Farrell said. "Wouldn't it make sense to plan for it?"
Councilor Eric Samson said he had heard similar complaints about the city being overregulated and city rules being overly complex. But Comprehensive Planning Committee member Robert Bowyer said city rules are complex because the city is complex.
"In some places, a place the size of Auburn would be an entire county," Boyer said. "Because of that, it's an extremely diverse community. We have ski resorts, downtown businesses, shopping malls, residential areas, so the zoning is a reflection of that."