The former Pineland Lumber Co., foreground, along the banks of the Androscoggin River in Lewiston is being considered for a large housing development. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — The City Council gave initial approval Tuesday to amending a contract zone for the proposed 245-unit housing complex on Avon Street, which will go to the Planning Board for review.

The developer of the complex, Saxon Partners, is seeking to consolidate its original proposal for three buildings to one larger structure with all 245 units.

The council initially approved the rezone in April, but an attorney for Saxon, James Bass, said Tuesday that as the company delved into the plans, they found that creating a single building would allow “better efficiencies.”

However, the initial rezoning pertaining to 10 Avon St., the largest of the parcels, set the density at 210 units. The other parcels, across the street at 35-37 Avon St. will now become additional parking rather than a smaller apartment building.

If for some reason the Planning Board rejects the amendments to the rezoning, the City Council could still approve it with a supermajority vote.

In response to questions from councilors, City Planner Doug Greene said the building at 10 Avon St. would be larger to accommodate all the units.

According to a city memo, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing and provide its recommendation. Officials anticipate the council to take it up again Dec. 3.

Under the previous plan, Saxon proposed two four-story buildings on 10 Avon St. with 105 units each and one three-story building on 35 and 37 Avon St. with 35 units.

The city memo states, however, that “over the last few months as Saxon has fine-tuned and further developed this project, it became apparent that greater efficiencies and a better design could be addressed if all units were colocated on 10 Avon St. and not split between the two lots.”

The council voted unanimously Tuesday on a first reading and to refer the item to the Planning Board.

Developers have previously said that the units would be either studio or one-bedroom apartments catered toward staff at Central Maine Medical Center on Main Street and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center on Campus Avenue.

During the previous permitting, a number of nearby residents expressed concerns for increased traffic and needed pedestrian-friendly upgrades to the neighborhood.

The project as proposed would result in about $775,000 in taxes annually, and would provide an easement for a second water connection to Lewiston, as well as an easement for eventually extending the riverwalk.

NO SMOKING

Also on Tuesday, the City Council approved final reading of a smoking ban for a section of downtown Lisbon Street, as well as the first reading for a similar ban surrounding Central Maine Medical Center on Main Street.

The council voted unanimously to pass the Lisbon Street ban in final reading, after a number of downtown business owners pushed for the ban to encompass the that district.

The ordinance will go into effect in 30 days, and officials questioned whether there should be signs or other educational materials posted to let the public know of the coming change.

At Central Maine Medical Center, the smoking ban will cover the area immediately adjacent to the hospital, including High and Hammond streets and the hospital side of Main Street.

Councilor Michael Marcotte objected to the inclusion of Main Street, arguing it does not necessarily have patient entrances. He said the city, as it is encouraging more pedestrian activity, will be affecting some smokers.

The vote was 6-1, with Marcotte opposed. A similar ban is already in place at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center on Campus Avenue.

MARIJUANA

The City Council approved final passage of its comprehensive ordinances governing recreational and medical marijuana.

The ordinances, developed over the past year and approved during first reading in October, hit on all state-regulated operations including retail, cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities.

David Hediger, director of Planning and Code Enforcement, said applications for business licenses will not be available until the ordinance are effective in 30 days. He said his office receives calls “every day” about the applications.


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