AUBURN — The Planning Board approved the site plan and special exception for the proposed 60-unit housing development at 555 Court St. on Tuesday, the first project to come forward under new zoning that took effect this month.

The development, dubbed Stable Ridge Apartments, will place five 12-unit buildings on the property adjacent to Auburn Middle School.

The board voted 4-3 for the approval after several neighborhood residents questioned how the development will fit with the character of the surrounding single-family neighborhoods.

Several people speaking during public comment are also involved in a petition effort to repeal the recent rezoning of the larger residential area, which allows for a greater housing density.

This aerial view shows the property at 555 Court St. in Auburn as well as some of the neighborhood around outer Court Street, left, that was recently rezoned to a type of form-based code that allows increased housing density and commercial uses. Sixty apartment units in five buildings at 555 Court St. were approved by the Planning Board on Tuesday. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Others supported the project based on the need for housing in Auburn, arguing that the development will add a needed variety of housing to a desirable area of the city.

The project, with three-story buildings featuring a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, is led by Auburn resident Jessica Klimek. Project consultants said construction is likely to take at least two years, and when complete will take up roughly 3 of the 13.25 acres.


Asked, a consultant said the 60 units is considered phase one, with Klimek considering future development, including condominiums.

On March 28, the City Council voted 5-2 to apply T-4.2, a type of form-based code that allows for increased housing density and commercial uses, to sections of Court, Lake and Turner streets, and Park, Western and Gamage avenues.

The proposal has been divisive among officials and residents, with questions over its long-term impact to the character of neighborhoods, but has also highlighted the larger statewide debate over how to solve the housing crisis.

Last week, a group of five residents took out petition papers in an effort to repeal the zoning, and will have 90 days to collect at least 1,648 signatures. If successful, the council would be forced to reconsider the ordinance or send the issue to voters.

On Tuesday, residents who live near the Court Street property expressed concern with the project but also for the larger process that led to Tuesday’s hearing.

Elizabeth Dunn, who lives at 530 Court St., said many officials “have voted with complete disregard of citizens,” and that the “extreme scope and size” does not fit in with the surrounding area.


Ryan Smith said Auburn’s Comprehensive Plan, which has been cited as the basis for the recent zoning changes, states that all new development should be compatible with existing development patterns. He said based on a video of the proposed project, “I don’t see anything else like that in the area.”

Smith and Dunn are among the five residents behind the petition effort.

When Smith mentioned the petition effort, board Chairman Evan Cyr reminded speakers to comment solely on the project itself.

Smith said he believes there’s a conflict of interest on the Planning Board, due member Brian Dubois, a real estate agent who represented Klimek in purchasing the property.

After considering asking Dubois to recuse himself from voting on the issue, the board voted unanimously against it.

Former Councilor Bob Hayes, who is also among the petitioners, questioned how and why the project was planned under the parameters of the T-4.2 zoning when it had not yet been approved, arguing that it appears “actions have been well synchronized with developers.”


Dubois said he took “great offense” to the comments regarding a potential conflict.

“To imply that I invest my time in the Planning Board for some kind of personal gain, I find offensive,” he said, adding that it’s an example of “why many capable people in the community don’t apply for these roles.”

Other concerns from residents centered on traffic, construction noise and light.

Eric Cousens, director of Planning and Permitting, said staff spent a lot of time with the traffic engineers looking at options. In response to some of the concerns about character, he said, “This is not a factory, or a big-box store, but different types of housing in a neighborhood.” He said housing like the proposal at Stable Ridge is meant to provide options for people who can’t access single-family homes to live in neighborhoods with the same opportunities.

He said under the previous zoning, there could be as many as seven units per acre, adding that someone could have built just as many units but in duplexes spread out along more of the property.

Board member Riley Bergeron said Auburn is in need of housing, but declined to support the proposal, stating an alternative design could have been a better fit with the rest of the neighborhood.

The board ultimately voted 4-3, with members Cyr, Leblanc, Ferraro and Dubois in favor.

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