AUBURN — The City Council will take up a proposed zoning amendment Monday that would increase the density of buildings in the city’s core residential area.

Another special meeting on the issue has been called for the following Monday, March 28.

The proposal, which has already attracted tremendous public feedback from residents due to its sheer size, is part of a number of changes aimed at encouraging more housing in Auburn, tied to efforts to increase more housing options statewide.

The amendment would affect 1,687 acres featuring sections of Court, Lake and Turner streets; and Park, Western and Gamage avenues. Officials have said the changes, similar to an expansion of form-based code in the downtown earlier this year, are meant to give homeowners more options for remodeling, renovating or adding accessory dwellings.

The proposal would essentially rename the urban residential zone to the traditional neighborhood development district, which according to a memo, would “allow for the development of a wide range of residential and community uses at a density of up to 16 units per acre in areas that are served” by public utilities.

City staff has said zoning in those areas requires a 25-foot setback and 100 feet of road frontage to build, but a majority of the neighborhoods there now do not meet those standards.


Eric Cousens, director of planning and permitting, has said some newer developments have been “forced to build out of that character” of the older homes and neighborhoods, and the change is meant to correct it, but the city has received considerable feedback from the public over recent weeks concerned that the higher density will change the neighborhood character on its own.

The Sun Journal has received several letters to the editor from residents concerned about the change, including from Denis Bergeron, who said the council should send the issue back to the Planning Board to be further refined.

“The proposal increases the allowable housing density in the area …, allows a much wider range of commercial development, relaxes parking restrictions, and changes the character of buildings allowed,” he said.

After initially delaying a recommendation on the change following a huge public response, the Planning Board voted 4-3 earlier this month to recommend the change. According to a memo, the board found that the area, considered the core of the city, has the available infrastructure in place to support higher density.

Mayor Jason Levesque said Friday that he called the special meeting for March 28 so the council could give the issue “the focus, time and urgency it deserves.”

While that means a second and final reading on the change is likely to be one week earlier than it normally would be, he said the meeting March 28 will be devoted entirely to the issue.

“We’ve been working on these issues for going on three years,” he said. “We have listened to the public, and I think some changes (to the zoning amendment) could happen Monday. But, it’s also important you have a sense of urgency when you’re having these discussions.”

The council will also hold a final reading Monday on a zoning amendment that would take 148 acres near Lake Auburn out of the Agricultural Zone, raising the chances for it to be developed.

The City Council gave initial approval on March 7 to rezone the large swath of land off Gracelawn Road that officials say should not be considered to be in the Lake Auburn watershed, but a number of residents were not convinced that future development activity in the area would not impact water quality.

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