AUBURN – A dozen members of the Lake Street School Building Committee reached substantive decisions on site plan changes with the help of several neighborhood residents at a meeting Thursday night.

Two new neighborhood members Don Corwin and Art Feeley sat with the committee and took an active part in the discussions, although their formal appointment has not yet been made by Kathy Constantine, chairwoman of the Auburn School Committee. Barbara Eretzian, superintendent of Auburn schools, said Feeley’s status as a potential member remains in question. She said the city’s legal counsel suggests a conflict of interest may exist because he is the son of an abutter whose property is a key issue in some of the site options.

At Eretzian’s invitation, Corwin and Feeley participated fully in the meeting, but abstained in the one vote taken.

After reviewing concerns raised by the public at a meeting two weeks ago, the committee heard Steven Blatt, Portland architect, make suggestions for site plan revisions. A constructive exchange of ideas resulted in the possible elimination of a parking area, a definition of approximately 200 feet by 200 feet of space as a leveled play area, and clarification of possible structured playground space, bus routes and buffering options.

“We’re trying real hard to thread this needle,” Blatt said.

Blatt will present new drawings to the group at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, prior to the regular Auburn School Committee meeting. That moves the project closer to a “straw vote” by Auburn residents and subsequent approval by the Maine Department of Education.

The changes proposed Thursday night will help preserve gully areas an some old growth trees, as well as address concerns about parking.

On a drawing of the site with Lake Street at the bottom, Blatt showed how a parking area on the original plan at the upper right of the new building could be greatly reduced. He urged the committee members to be careful about cutting parking.

“It’s very easy to sit here at the planning stage and X out parking,” Blatt said, “but after it’s built people park anywhere they want to” if appropriate areas have not been provided.

“Is there a clear definition of use for the old building?” Feeley asked.

He said there have been rumors that it would be turned into storage space.

“No, it won’t be storage,” Eretzian said. Some possible uses would be for an art room, music room, library and similar purposes, she said.

In addition to Corwin and Feeley, about half a dozen neighbors attended and they were asked for their input at several points. One resident who owns abutting property said the meeting had given her a better perspective on the total project and she said she is likely to be reassessing some of her earlier reasons for opposition.

At the close of the meeting, the committee voted unanimously to recommend that the Auburn School Committee accept an offer for right of first refusal on property at Holly and Fern Streets that will be put up for sale.

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