AUBURN — City officials want developers to know Auburn is open for business. 

Part of that work is shopping out city parcels for potential development, after many have sat idle for years. It’s part of a comprehensive effort to review and possibly turn the properties into an economic benefit by adding them to the tax base, Eric Cousens, deputy director of economic and community development, said Monday.

At a workshop Monday, councilors supported moving ahead with the first such proposals — the sale and development of 186 and 261 Main St.

The properties are just the start of what the city hopes is a boost to economic development activity. 

Cousens said the department has been reviewing available properties in three target areas, including the downtown district, and the two Main Street parcels are ready for consideration. 

“It’s exciting, and it’s something we haven’t been able to focus on for the last few  years,” he said of the city properties. 

He said requests for proposals on a dozen more properties could move forward this year. The properties have been mostly tax acquired, he said. 

The city identified 10 downtown parcels that could be considered, but some are parking lots. 

The department also hosted an economic development roundtable discussion last week, which brought in regional developers and professionals to learn more about Auburn’s prospects. 

The council was asked Monday to provide input on the draft request-for-proposals policy format, which stipulates development criteria based on the city’s comprehensive plan. A council decision is required for the acquisition or disposition of real estate.

Mayor Jonathan LaBonte favored moving ahead quickly with finalizing the policy. He said he’s hoping the city can “chip away” at the sale of the available properties as soon as possible. 

A memo describing the Main Street parcels refers to them as “prime downtown property.” 

Cousens describes the 186 Main St. lot as having “great views of the Androscoggin River and substantial frontage on Main Street. Traffic counts indicate that nearly 10,000 vehicles pass by the site each day.”

LaBonte said he would favor selling a property for under its value if it meant a beneficial project. 

“We want to look at the long-term return for the city,” he said.

The 261 Main St. parcel is a small lot at the Academy Street intersection.

Cousens said going forward, the city will go through the target areas, which also include the New Auburn neighborhood, and come back with proposals for each property.

Councilor Andrew Titus suggested keeping a chart online with all the properties, so councilors can see updates on where they are in the process. 

Cousens said the economic development roundtable discussion hosted by the city last week may have helped the city get the word out about the properties most likely coming up for sale. 

Michael Chammings, director of economic and community development, led the group of about 25 people in an overview of the city’s economic development efforts on Jan. 31. 

Community Development Manager Yvette Bouttenot spotlighted two new initiatives in the city to also spur growth — the STAR business loan program aimed at boosting job growth for small businesses, and the neighborhood challenge grant, which provides funds to neighborhood organizations or other groups for local infrastructure upgrades. 

During the discussion, Cousens said the department has been focusing on customer service. He compared Auburn’s development permitting process timeline with Portland’s, which he said takes an average of 75 days. He said Auburn’s is closer to 12. 

Chammings said the department has also been focusing on foreign investments, highlighted by the Miracle Enterprises medical tourism project on Minot Avenue. He said the Chinese company is still “actively pursuing” the development and lining up investors. Asked for a timeline on the project, he said the company is still pursuing a two-year timeframe. 

He also said another major focus this year will be the empty industrial park, which is for sale. 

Chammings said the top question his office has been getting lately, however, is: “When is the Krispy Kreme (on Center Street) opening?” 

He said May looks good.

On Wednesday, he said, a ribbon-cutting will finally take place at Taco Bell, opening at 417 Center St. 

Council approves sex offender restrictions 

AUBURN — The City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve  residency restrictions for convicted sex offenders.

The restrictions are based on state guidelines, which prohibit sex offenders convicted of offenses against persons under 14 at the time of the offense from living in designated areas. 

During a previous meeting, Auburn Police Chief Phillip Crowell said there are 52 sex offenders in the city, 25 of whom qualify for the residency restrictions. He said 14 reside within the proposed residency restrictions, but would be grandfathered until moving from that residence.

Councilor Andrew Titus said he is concerned with the process for grandfathering the residents, and asked for clarification on the laws surrounding possible regulations on the grandfathering rules. 

Designated areas include all public and private schools in Auburn, as well as municipal or state properties used for parks or recreation. 

According to the guidelines, offenders must live at least 750 feet from a designated area. 

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