Planning Board favors wider commercial zones for Center Street lots


AUBURN — Rezoning to allow wider development of three lots along Center Street should come with stronger residential buffers, according to the Planning Board.

The board voted Tuesday to recommend changing the zoning for 10 Blackmer St., 11 Alpha St. and the back half of 400 Center St. from urban residential to general business.

City Planner Eric Cousens said the zoning change extends only to within 25 feet of the residential streets.

“The real purpose is to make sure there is room for strong buffering,” Cousens said. “The board really emphasized that any site plan they would consider for redeveloping those lots would need a really substantial buffer and substantial landscaping all along that strip. They recognized the value of redeveloping that land but didn’t want to negatively affect the residential neighborhoods.”

The matter next will go to the City Council for a workshop discussion and a vote. Cousens said he submitted a request Wednesday to be put on the council’s agenda, but he didn’t know when councilors would see it.

There is no pressing development proposal for any of the parcels, Cousens said. All three are vacant and the three owners hope to sell them or to bring developers on the site.

“They would become much more valuable sites, especially with the zoning change,” Cousens said.

The land is about a quarter-mile south of Mount Auburn Avenue and along the western side of Center Street between Dartmouth and Broadview streets.

The first parcel, 10 Blackmer St., backs up to the vacant Paris Farmers Union building at 410 Center St. Both the Blackmer and Center streets’ parcels are owned by Peter Chapman.

The second parcel, 400 Center St., is a vacant office building owned by TSI Inc. That lot had split zoning: the Center Street half was zoned for general business while the Blackmer Street was zoned for urban residential.

The third is a grassy lot at the corner of Blackmer and Alpha streets, owned by Constance Whitmore. It backs up to the commercially zoned office building at 392 Center St.

The board also reviewed a rezoning request for a second lot on 18 W. Dartmouth St., just west of the former Paris Farmers Union. That lot, owned by Peter Chapman, was used as display and storage space for the hardware store.

“That was approved for use as a parking lot, but it was misused as a display,” Cousens said.

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