AUBURN — The city’s downtown, from Great Falls Plaza to New Auburn, could get a new set of zoning codes and design standards, according to staff reports Monday night.

Councilors heard a report on adopting a form-based zoning code scheme for the downtown. It would be designed to make the area more inviting to pedestrian traffic by encouraging developers to make their buildings and sidewalks more conducive to foot traffic while accepting multiple uses for the area, according to City Planner Doug Greene.

It’s already been approved unanimously by the Planning Board. Councilors said they like the idea and will consider the zoning change at a public hearing during a future City Council meeting.

The new code would base Auburn’s zoning codes on forms — not uses — going forward. New developments would be created based on how they interact with pedestrians and each other. All of those elements, including building designs, sidewalk depth, entrances, on-street parking and many others, would be specifically called out in the city’s zoning codes.

Greene said the new code could help encourage new investment. Current zoning rules require developers and building owners to go through an entire zoning process if their redevelopment plan covers more than 5,000 square feet. The new code scheme would double that amount, letting them skip an expensive Planning Board review if the redevelopment is for less than 12,000 square feet.

“If they follow all the city stipulations from the form-based code and are under 12,000 square feet, they can go right to a building permit,” Greene said. “Many folks will appreciate that. They are investing and putting money down to finance the project. This could save that, and many months of additional time it takes to get a project approved.”

They would also be able to waive the new zoning requirements with Planning Board permission.

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