AUBURN — A special City Council workshop tonight to review a controversial New Auburn housing proposal has been expanded to include a refresher of city housing policies and a tour of the site.

City officials had scheduled Tuesday’s meeting — postponed from Monday because of the Labor Day holiday — to discuss the 48-unit, affordable-rent Loring Farm townhouse project.

“Most of the scuttlebutt I hear around town is about the Loring Farm project, so I expect  it will dominate the meeting,” Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said.

The meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. with a tour of the proposed 15-acre site of the project at 37 Loring Ave.

It will continue at 6 p.m. in the gymnasium of Walton School, 92 Mary Carroll St., with a discussion about city policies and a review of a second housing development, on Spring Street downtown.

The Loring Farm project is the last item on the agenda. A group of 100 crowded into Rolly’s Diner last week to meet with LaBonte and project developers for an impromptu question-and-answer session.

Maine group Developers Collaborative wants to build 48 rental townhouses close to one another at the center of the Loring Avenue lot, at the bottom of a basin and surrounded by trees.

The $3.8 million project would rely on tax credits from the Maine State Housing Authority. To get those credits, the project would need a tax-increment financing deal with the city and $250,000 in federal HOME funds from the city of Auburn’s allocation.

LaBonte said the city always intended to discuss the downtown Spring Street project Tuesday.

“But it wasn’t until we had the meeting on the Loring Farms TIF that staff had details of what the Spring Street developer was proposing for their final project and a city partnership,” the mayor said.

The project is designed to replace the former Dillingham Funeral Home on Spring Street. Portland developer Ethan Boxer-Macomber of Anew Development is hoping councilors will approve the third version of the 39-unit Spring Street housing development. Councilors approved versions in 2014 and 2015.

The Spring Street development would already be part of the city’s downtown Tax Increment Financing District, but Macomber is asking to have the TIF district extended by five years and for $250,000 of the city’s federal HOME fund allocation.

Councilors are scheduled to vote on both projects at their Sept. 12 meeting.

The projects would likely be competing for the Maine State Housing Authority’s tax credits this fall against Lewiston’s proposed Hartley Block retail and housing development. 

In the Lewiston project, developer Nate Zanton wants to fill seven empty lots on the west side of Lisbon Street between Pine and Ash streets, constructing a five-story apartment building with 63 units, a mix of publicly supported affordable units and apartments.

The authority reviews and grades projects on their viability and community support, with the highest-graded projects winning support each year. Community support, in the form of tax incentives and grants, are important parts of the grade.

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