The property at 774 Center Street in Auburn, where the former Evergreen Subaru was located, has been slated for the new headquarters of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office. The city of Auburn is now trying to halt the plan until zoning questions are resolved. Boulos Company photo

AUBURN — Just days after Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson convinced county leaders to purchase land for a new building, the city of Auburn has announced it will try to halt the project.

The city’s concern? The proposed location for the new building.

Commissioners on Wednesday approved spending $4.52 million to purchase the former Evergreen Subaru property in Auburn, two miles north of the county courthouse. The plan was to build a new sheriff’s office there to replace the 150-year-old existing building that’s been vexed for decades by a multitude of problems.

Auburn City Manager Phil Crowell sent out a press release Friday afternoon saying the city is seeking a moratorium to halt the project.

“City leaders feel that a moratorium is needed due to concerns that Auburn’s current ordinances governing land use, zoning, site plan review and special exception review do not adequately or specifically address public safety facilities, detention facilities, or correctional facilities,” according to the release.

“The city’s position,” the release continues, “is that the development of new or additional public safety facilities, detention facilities or correctional facilities could pose a serious threat to the public health, safety and welfare of the residents and businesses abutting — or in close proximity — to such facilities without adequately planning for issues of public safety, health, land use compatibility, noise, visual degradation and environmental degradation.”


According to the release, the city will ask the City Council to declare a moratorium when they meet on Tuesday.

Samson was just learning of the city’s position Friday afternoon. Since he took over as sheriff in 2014, he’s been trying to convince the county that a new building was needed to house his department.

The 1857 Androscoggin County Courthouse complex at Court and Turner streets in Auburn includes the main entrance to the courthouse, far left, the entrance to the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office, center left, and the more recent, multistory jail addition, far right. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

Samson reacted to the city’s announcement with dismay.

“We are not proposing the construction of a correctional facility or a detention center, he said, “however they did include a  public safety facilities. I would think in the end, one would think common sense will prevail and a public safety building located on Center Street would be an appropriate location — and wouldn’t be viewed as posing a serious threat to the area, but rather as an enhancement.

“I’m fairly confident once the proposal is reviewed,” Samson said, “it will be supported as it meets zoning requirements.”

Crowell, however, wrote that he is concerned that the placement of the new building would be a detriment to the city.


“There should be no doubt that public safety is among the city’s highest priorities,” he wrote. “The services provided by the county jail, sheriff’s office and county 911 dispatch must meet the needs of the entire county, including Auburn.”

Samson, meanwhile, pointed out that there is a fire substation 500 feet from the proposed location of the new sheriff’s office, and no significant problems have arisen there.

“We are currently located in the congested downtown next to a church and a daycare,” Samson said, “so they should be pleased with our attempts to relocate across from a car lot and movie theater.”

He remained optimistic that his department will still have its new home in the long run.

“Hopefully we can work it all out after hearing and responding to their concerns,” Samson said.

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