An aerial view from March 23 of the sandpit between Gracelawn Road and Lake Auburn in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

AUBURN — There are now dual petition efforts to repeal recent rezoning decisions in Auburn.

Earlier this week, petition papers were issued to a group of citizens hoping to repeal the recent rezoning of land along the Lake Auburn watershed boundary on Gracelawn Road.

The property, home to a large gravel pit, has been at the center of a debate over water quality and development at the lake that has also involved Lewiston officials.

The rezoning, approved March 21, removed 148 acres lying between the Auburn Mall area and Lake Auburn out of the so-called Lake Auburn watershed overlay district and into a zone that allows for a range of development uses.

City officials pursued the change after a recent study said the land should not be considered part of the watershed, but people concerned over the fragile state of the lake have argued that the issue should be looked at more closely.

The newest petition effort, submitted on April 20, looks to repeal the zoning change. Just like a petition effort launched in early April, five residents — considered a petitioners’ committee — will have 90 days to circulate petitions, and will need to collect at least 1,648 signatures.

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According to the City Clerk’s office, if the petitions are deemed sufficient, it would then go before the City Council for officials to reconsider the ordinance. If the council fails to repeal the ordinance within 30 days, the repeal effort would then go before voters as a referendum.

The provision also states that the council could make a “substantial change” to the ordinance, and if so, it would not be required to submit the matter to an election.

 

The five-member petitioners’ committee is made up of Keri Myrick, Peter Dingley, Fred Holler, Stanwood Gray and Celia McGuckian. Deputy City Clerk Alison Pepin said the petition papers were issued on Monday, April 25.

Earlier this month, a group of five residents took out petition papers in an effort to repeal the recent rezoning of a large swath of Auburn’s core residential area to a type of form-based code that expanded density limits and commercial uses.

The change has since led to a development proposal of 60 apartment units at 555 Court St., which was approved by the Planning Board on April 12, but is now the subject of an Ethics Panel review.

On Wednesday, Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque said he respects “the chartered right of a petition process,” but said the recent petition efforts are “classic NIMBYism” — which is an acronym for the phrase “not in my back yard.”

Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline has been outspoken in his opposition to changes related to the Lake Auburn watershed, stating that any new development could result in further runoff and harmful nutrients entering the lake.

Auburn city staff contends that stormwater from the gravel pit area does not drain toward the lake.

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