AUBURN — A Bates College survey of landowners in Auburn’s agricultural zone has been completed as city officials continue a series of back-to-back workshops on proposed amendments to the zone.

The survey, conducted by Bates College professor Francis Eanes, was issued to landowners in the agricultural zone over six weeks this summer in hopes of better understanding what landowners want to do with their land and their priorities for the future of the zone.

As city officials have held weekly discussions on the contentious issue for the past month, the survey has been repeatedly cited by a number of elected officials concerned the proposed amendments will result in unintended consequences.

Many have argued the city should review the survey results before any decision on the zoning amendments is made.

However, Mayor Jason Levesque, who has pushed for the consecutive workshops and for the City Council to “do its job,” previously criticized the survey as it was rolled out.

In a July statement, Levesque said the survey results would “not be used in any decision-making process by city staff, elected or appointed officials” because the Conservation Commission and Planning Board never voted to authorize city participation.


On Thursday, Eanes said he has finished collecting data and is now in the process of organizing and analyzing. He is hoping to have that done in the next few weeks, he said.

From the results he has analyzed, “there is a lot more consensus” in what residents are invisioning for the future than what has previously been implied, he said.

Eanes said Thursday he recently reached out to City Manager Peter Crichton in hopes of scheduling a council workshop to present the results.

Crichton said he suggested Eanes reach out to the Conservation Commission, Planning Board and City Council directly to gauge interest in reviewing the results.

Eanes said between 310 and 320 residents, or 41 percent of landowners in the zone, responded. He said that is about twice the response rate he often sees in similar peer-reviewed research using mailed surveys.

At the conclusion of this week’s City Council workshop on the issue, Levesque called another workshop for this Monday, drawing criticism from some councilors. It will be the third consecutive workshop on the issue.


Crichton confirmed Thursday the Sept. 30 workshop is going forward.

When asked if he felt city staff has had enough time to prepare — a concern listed by councilors last week — Crichton said: “You do the best you can with the time you have. We have a very capable staff and I’m confident the product we present Monday will be helpful to councilors.”

Crichton said the workshop will follow a similar setup as this week. However, the 5:30 p.m. workshop will begin with a 30-minute public comment period. Council workshop sessions do not generally offer public comment.

He said staff will try to address the “ideal outcomes” listed by the council last week, including what they’d like to avoid in the zone.

The monthslong discussion has focused on zoning laws in the Agriculture and Resource Protection Zone that stipulate that in order to build a new home, a property owner must own at least 10 acres and earn 50 percent of household income from agriculture or forestry, a threshold that has become increasingly difficult to meet.

The current proposal would maintain the 10-acre minimum lot size, but would create a provision to grandfather lots between 3 and 10 acres that were in place prior to Jan. 1, 2018. Initially, the city said that provision would apply only to 10 developable parcels in the zone, allowing landowners to build accessory dwellings. On Monday, that number was adjusted to 37.

In all, counting 10-acre lots with appropriate road frontage that could be developed by meeting the proposed standards, there would be 136 lots immediately available for subdivision, according to the presentation Monday.

Under the proposal, that number could grow to hundreds more, based on subsequent land splits over time, as long as the landowner was meeting the farm standards set in the ordinance.

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