AUBURN — With no neighbors to oppose it, a Center Street rezoning proposal passed its first test Monday with the City Council.
Councilors voted unanimously to approve the plan from Bill Turner of Maine Source Realty to change zoning on 314 Center St. from Urban Residential to General Business. Turner plans to relocate his real estate office to the former farmhouse, one of the last residential lots with its exit and entrance directly on Center Street.
"We felt the need to relocate into the city, and this is where we want to do it," Turner told councilors.
A little larger than a half-acre, the lot is set back from Center Street and connected by a long driveway that runs between office buildings just north of Newell Street on the western side of Center Street.
The lot is about 800 feet south of another Center Street zoning proposal. Property owners there are hoping to get city approval to rezone their entire parcels to General Business. Currently those lots, along Broadview, Blackmer and Alpha streets have General Business zoning on the Center Street side, and residential zoning on the Blackmer and Alpha sides.
Councilors approved that plan on first reading in July and they're scheduled to vote on it one last time at the Aug. 15 meeting. Some neighbors oppose the three-lot plan.
One of those neighbors, Tizz Crowley, of 35 University St., told councilors the same questions applied to the Maine Source Realty plan.
"There has been no public comment against this," she said. "Could that be because the public does not know about it? I don't understand, what is the rush to make a decision?"
But City Planner Eric Cousens said Maine Source Realty lot does not have any access on any residential streets. And developer Turner said he had talked with the people that live behind his planned office. His backyard neighbors would include an apartment complex on Broadview Avenue and three single-family homes.
"We mailed letters of our own to the neighborhood, then we went out and met them," Turner said. "They had some questions and we did our best to answer them. So the reason they didn't bring their concerns to the city is that they've had all of their concerns answered."
The matter will be back before the council for a second reading later this summer.