AUBURN — Officials could make a final decision on a proposal to expand residential strip zones in the city before the new City Council is sworn in next month.

The City Council on Monday considered its options for taking up the proposal after the Planning Board recently recommended against it.

The move to expand the size of the strip zones, which would provide more buildable area for residential development in the affected neighborhoods, has been debated during a series of public meetings since this summer.

The discussion has been just one element of the city’s push to confront a regional and statewide housing shortage, which has also sparked debates over whether the changes would be too much too soon. During the Planning Board meeting last week, several residents spoke out against the strip zone proposal.

The city has a number of residential strips, primarily in northern and southern areas of Auburn that split parcels of land between two zoning districts. Most property owners along the strips have a residence in the front of the property that is located in a residential zone, with the back portion of the property in the agricultural zone.

The change would increase the depth from 450 feet to 750 feet from the centerline of the roadway or the rear property boundary, whichever is less.


Mayor Jason Levesque said Monday that despite the Planning Board recommendation, the issue deserves “finality” under the current City Council. However, the outlook for how that would be accomplished is muddy.

While the council conducted a first reading in July, city staff has recommended the process start over due to changes that have been made to the proposal as a result of public feedback since then. That would result in the current council taking a first reading on Dec. 6, with a new City Council conducting a final reading. (The new City Council is sworn in on Dec. 13.)

However, some councilors believe the process has received robust public feedback and argued the current council should hold a final reading on Dec. 6. In order for that to happen, at least two councilors will have to request that a final reading appear on the Dec. 6 agenda, and in time for the 14-day notice period for a public hearing to take place.

Councilor Holly Lasagna said there’s been a lot of public comment and work from staff to get to this point.

“I feel like we’re in a place that we can do a final reading on Dec. 6,” she said.

However, Councilor Belinda Gerry argued the council should adhere to the Planning Board recommendation against the strip zone expansion.

“The Planning Board gave us no clear cut decision, they’re at a loss too,” she said. “If we put them in the power to do these types of things, we should listen to their judgement and back off on this.”

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