AUBURN — The City Council on Monday repealed the controversial zoning ordinance at the heart of a citizens’ petition, after several members of the public asked officials to send the question to voters.

The petition group, Citizens for Sensible Growth, submitted 2,400 signatures in an effort to repeal the rezoning of a large residential area surrounding Court Street into a zoning known as T-4.2.

The effort succeeded Monday, but because the city has been drafting a similar zoning, known as T-4.2B, the petitioners called on officials to send the issue to a referendum. The City Charter states that after a petition is certified, the City Council has 30 days to either repeal the zoning or set a date for a citywide referendum.

Last week, an attorney for the petition group issued a statement arguing that the city’s plan to repeal the T-4.2 zoning and replace it with a similar zoning makes a “deliberate end-run around the citizens’ referendum process.”

The petitioners group and city officials have disagreed on whether the new type of zoning amounts to a substantial change. Officials have said that the changes were made in response to initial neighborhood concerns regarding commercial uses.

The T-4.2 type of zoning is a form-based code that’s designed to allow greater flexibility for property owners, allowing a broader mix of commercial and residential uses. Residents have railed against the allowed housing density, with concerns for multi-unit apartment buildings.


The vote to repeal the ordinance was 4-3, with Councilors Belinda Gerry, Rick Whiting and Dana Staples opposed.

Staples said he supports both zoning types, but said as an at-large councilor, he feels he has to listen to the 2,400 people who signed the petition.

During public comment, several members of the petition group called on the council to send it to referendum, where they believe the issue would be easily defeated.

“Some people don’t think this message represents the sentiment of the whole city,” said Jeff Harmon. “If that’s the case, send it to referendum and we’ll see what the citizens of Auburn think.”

Petitioner John Cleveland said the section of the charter dealing with citizens’ petitions, which he helped craft, was not meant to allow a “repeal and replace” move. He said it was added as a means for citizen voices to be heard.

“It was not written or intended to provide a means to substitute a new ordinance in place of the one they just repealed,” he said.


During an earlier vote, the council voted down the T-4.2B zoning, opting to send it back to the Planning Board to provide a “clean slate” for the process.

Mayor Jason Levesque said the council made the decision in response to concerns from residents over the process so far, and that sending the proposed zoning back to the Planning Board for a public hearing and recommendation “allows this to go through the process again.

Gerry and Whiting also opposed the move.

“I’m ashamed of some of the tactics we try to do,” Gerry said.

Whiting said he’s lived in Auburn since 1954, and has never seen a petition with 2,400 signatures.

“We’ve been doing too much talking and not enough listening,” he said.

The decision to send it back to the Planning Board will impact a proposed schedule for implementing the T-4.2B zoning in several areas of the city.

In the next few weeks, the Planning Board is scheduled to vote on recommendations for applying the zoning to residential areas near Broad Street and Vickery Road.

In October, the Planning Board is scheduled to conduct hearings on making the change in an area around Bates and Bradman streets and Stetson Road.

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