AUBURN — The city is considering amendments to recently-approved zoning in the core residential area surrounding Court Street, and is looking to expand that same zoning to four additional areas.

Officials say the changes are meant to address concerns from residents that led to a current petition effort to repeal it. The overall process has been an effort by city officials stemming from last year’s Comprehensive Plan update to address the regional and statewide housing shortage.

The form-based zoning, known as traditional downtown neighborhood, was approved March 28 for a 1,687-acre area surrounding Court, Lake and Turner streets, and Park, Western and Gamage avenues. The type of zoning is meant to give property owners more flexibility with their land, help diversify housing types and encourage infill development, but opponents fear it could wipe away the character of neighborhoods that have historically been mostly single-family homes.

There are several distinctions between the previously-approved traditional downtown neighborhood “T-4.2” zoning and the proposed “T-4.2B,” which will be reviewed by the Planning Board Tuesday.

According to city documents, the T-4.2B zoning is “characterized by small to medium sized buildings with smaller front yards and stoops in a more compact urban environment, and includes traditional neighborhood sized storefronts.”

Several of those distinctions were included in a series of proposed amendments made prior to the City Council’s initial approval of the zoning, but were ultimately rescinded after a legal review found that the changes would require the creation of a completely new type of zoning.


Officials opted to pass the originally-proposed zoning with the intention of asking staff to compile public feedback and have the Planning Board consider the new zone.

Most of the proposed changes would make several uses allowed only after receiving special exception approval from the Planning Board, including multifamily housing developments.

It would also limit the density to 14 units per acre, or up to 16 with Planning Board approval.

The list of special exceptions also includes bed and breakfasts, residential facilities, lodging, personal services and government offices. It would make age-restricted retail, such as marijuana stores, not allowed. It would also not allow restaurants with over 30 seats or drive-thru businesses.

Office, service and retail uses would be limited to 1,500 square-feet and would require an upper floor residential unit.

Mayor Jason Levesque said this week that even when first approving the zoning in March, the council acknowledged it would need some changes. He said the list of proposed amendments is substantial, and should eliminate much of the concerns for large commercial or retail stores popping up on street corners.


He said so far city staff has heard positive feedback, and has so far seen positive results from the current zoning, with residents looking to build porches or small additions, meaning residents are “reinvesting in their properties.”

The city also recently approved a 60-unit apartment complex off Court Street.

“We’ve learned a lot in the process so far, and we can hopefully debunk some of the myths out there,” he said, adding that the zoning will not allow a “pot shop and McDonald’s on every corner.”

If approved soon, the new zoning will also muddy the petition process that seeks to repeal the March rezoning of the same area. Even if the petition is successful in garnering enough signatures, the council could repeal and replace the zoning with T-4.2B without having to send the question to voters.

John Cleveland, one of the petitioners behind the Citizens for Sensible Growth effort against the zoning, said he doesn’t believe that will necessarily be the case.

According to the City Charter, once a petition is filed and certified, the ordinance in question is suspended until the City Council either amends it or it’s sent to referendum. The petitioners have until July 6 to submit the required number of signatures.


Cleveland also questioned the rationale of the city making the changes now after just approving the zoning in late March. He said Thursday that the proposed changes are only “superficial” in nature and do not fully address their concerns.

Levesque said officials “said from the beginning we were going to make changes,” and that the city is “already fixing some of the potential issues.”

“These are not minimal changes,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Planning Board will hold public hearings on shifting four additional areas of the city to the new zoning.

Area “A” includes 936 acres between the New Auburn residential areas and Broad Street; area “B” includes 19 acres surrounding Vickery Road; area “C” includes 148 acres surrounding Poland, Manley and Hotel roads; and area “D” includes 288 acres in the residential area of Bates, Bradman and Stetson roads.

The areas under consideration are currently zoned Urban Residential, Suburban Residential, Multi-Family Suburban or Rural Residential.

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