AUBURN — The City Council approved the creation of a new type of residential zoning Monday night that could be used to replace zoning that has been at the center of a contentious petition effort.

The council voted to create the new zone after an attempt was made to postpone the vote in response to a petition signed by some 2,400 residents.

The zoning, known as T-4.2B, is a type of form-based code meant to encourage infill development and a broader range of residential and commercial uses.

It was drafted in response to concerns with similar zoning adopted in March, which led to the petition effort from residents who argued the zoning would alter the character of a large swath of Auburn’s residential neighborhoods.

That zoning, T-4.2, is suspended while the city clerk’s office certifies the petition signatures. According to the city charter, once the signatures are certified, the council has 30 days to repeal the zoning or the issue must be referred to the voters.

The T-4.2B zone attempts to address previous public concern by limiting the types and sizes of businesses allowed. The zoning would not allow marijuana businesses, drive-thru businesses or restaurants or other retail operations over a certain size.


Those involved with the petition effort argued Monday that the alternative zoning is too similar to the original, and it was created by officials with limited public engagement to “undermine” a potential referendum.

The council could repeal T-4.2 and replace it with T-4.2B without sending the issue to voters.

Ryan Smith, one of the petitioners behind Citizens for Sensible Growth, said Monday that if the council goes that route, it would be “a smack in the face” to residents who clearly want a voice.

Prior to the council vote Monday, Councilor Dana Staples said while he supports both forms of zoning, he believes the issue should be postponed and a series of monthly neighborhood meetings should be held.

“We’ve got 2,400 signatures that have put us on notice,” Staples said, “and I think we need to recognize that.”

His motion to postpone failed 4-3, with Councilors Belinda Gerry and Rick Whiting also voting in favor.


“I think people are overwhelmed by the massive nature of these proposals,” Whiting said. “As averse as people are to more meetings, I don’t think it’s a bad idea.”

Councilor Ryan Hawes said the Planning Board has held multiple meetings and has reviewed the zoning sufficiently. He repeated comments he made last week during a community conversation arguing he has not seen a better solution from those opposed.

“This is the best thing we have,” he said.

The City Council ultimately voted 5-2 on the first reading, with Gerry and Whiting opposed.

Elizabeth Dunn, a resident who has been outspoken against a housing development at 555 Court St., said after the vote the petition has shown there is “a large number of people that have real concerns” who now “really don’t believe you are listening.”

“It takes a willingness to compromise,” she said.

Mayor Jason Levesque referred earlier questions to the city attorney, citing the petition group’s legal counsel, who has contacted the city.

Included in Monday’s agenda packet is a letter from lawyer Kristin M. Collins of Preti Flaherty, who, among other things, argues: “There are no substantive differences between 4.2 and 4.2B. The sole effect of the amendment would be to duplicate the ordinance and frustrate the purpose of the petition. As such, it must be tabled until the referendum election is held.”

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