AUBURN — City officials will wait until at least June to consider an updated septic ordinance at Lake Auburn.

The council voted unanimously Monday to delay the vote after several councilors said they were not comfortable moving ahead without further consideration from the Planning Board, as well as the consultant that issued a report on the lake last year.

Earlier this month, the council signaled its support for the septic design updates, which would allow property owners to utilize alternative soils in designing septic systems — something that has not been allowed in the watershed, but has also restricted development in the watershed.

While officials and city staff have said the updated standards will result in better performing septic systems, some have argued that the changes should be tied to development restrictions, because the new ordinance could allow for some level of increased development.

In response to the concerns, the Planning Board recommended that the city move to a 3-acre minimum lot size in the watershed, and city staff said last week a consultant from FB Environmental has been hired to conduct a new round of modeling based on the proposed changes.

While the initial report included modeling that predicted roughly 100 homes being built under certain scenarios, officials say that number would be cut dramatically based on larger lot sizes.


But, councilors on Monday said they wanted to wait for that data, as well as Planning Board action on the zoning change, before voting.

Prior to the tabling motion from Councilor Dana Staples, several members of the public spoke on the proposal.

Bruce Rioux questioned who would benefit from the change, arguing that it would only benefit a small group of landowners who would suddenly be allowed to develop. Rioux, like others, said he’s concerned that Auburn will lose its waiver from filtration and be forced to built a costly filtration plant.

“The total number of people who will benefit can be counted on two hands,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that stink in Auburn, but not one of them has to do with septic systems.”

Officials, including Mayor Jason Levesque, have argued that the new standards, combined with phosphorus control standards approved Monday, will be a net benefit to the lake even if a small number of new homes result.

The council on Monday unanimously supported new phosphorus control measures that require a phosphorus control plan to be submitted for any new building or structure more than 200 square feet.


Levesque said much of what he’s heard regarding the process lately has been “rumors, falsities and slander about who’s going to profit. The vast majority is untrue.”

Staples said he wants to see the new modeling from FB Environmental before making a decision. And, he said, if they believe more housing will come in, he wants to know “what are the effects?”

“I don’t feel 100% OK with this until we are told we will not lose the (waiver from filtration),” said Councilor Leroy Walker.

Eric Cousens, director of Planning and Permitting, said staff recently wrote the Maine Drinking Water Program regarding the changes, but did not receive “a definitive opinion” or position. He said the city plans to resend a request based on the most recent proposals.

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