AUBURN — The City Council will consider allowing separate, “in-law” structures to be built on eligible parcels in all residential zones, the latest in a series of moves city officials have considered to encourage housing growth and rehabilitation projects in Auburn.

Following a workshop Monday, the majority of councilors appeared in favor of exploring the proposal, which will be forwarded to the Planning Board for a recommendation.

According to Eric Cousens, director of Planning and Permitting, the proposal is related to others that officials have been considering, aimed at infill development and addressing the need for more types of housing options in the city.

Infill development is the process of developing vacant or underused parcels within existing urban areas that are already largely developed.

“We think this can really help accomplish the goal of creating new opportunities for residences on lots that are large enough to accommodate a second unit on the property, which under the current zoning are required to have that second unit in the same building,” he said.

According to his memo to the council, under the current rules, even if a homeowner has the required land area and meets the density requirements, a second unit would have to be attached or contained within a single structure.

Cousens said most residential zones require double the minimum lot size in order to have a second unit. He said “in-law situations” or rentals could be popular uses if the change was made.

Mayor Jason Levesque said he’s received a number of calls just this year about accessory dwellings, and has discussed the issue during the city’s ongoing comprehensive plan review. Levesque also questioned Monday whether the Agriculture and Resource Protection zone could be amended to allow the change.

Cousens said currently, the zone only allows a second dwelling if it’s an accessory to a farming use, but said the language could be amended if officials wanted to pursue the change in all zones.

“There’s a lot of benefits to this,” Levesque said. “It helps free up inventory around town, to allow new homeowners to come in.”

Levesque, during his recent “state of the city” address, called for a substantial increase in housing development — some 2,000 single-family homes — over the next five years, while asking officials to remove regulation barriers and encourage infill development in the downtown.

In September, the City Council agreed in concept to a six-month process to increase the available housing units in the city, a decision driven by the current housing market.

Last month, officials expanded Auburn’s form-based code district known as Traditional Downtown Neighborhood to a swath of the downtown and New Auburn. The City Council approved the final reading Monday, along with a first reading for expanding the district into the neighborhood surrounding Court and Lake streets.

Staff has argued that the move better fits the character of the neighborhoods and will make it easier for building owners to construct additions or renovate.

Also on Monday, Jay Brenchick, director of economic development, briefed the council on his department’s plans to market a group of city parcels to potential developers. He said the effort will be rolled out this week, via the city’s new economic development website, goauburn.com

In the coming weeks, he said the Community Room at Auburn Hall will be used for meetings with developers, calling it, “Something that other communities don’t do.”

The council gave its approval last month to sell the properties, which include the former St. Louis Church.

Other properties include a lot off Mechanics Row near the municipal parking garage, and 131 Main St., which is free municipal parking.

A multiuse development has been envisioned as a possibility, but councilors previously raised questions about the potential loss of parking.


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