A map created by the Planning department shows the area proposed to move to the T-4.2B zoning. City of Auburn

AUBURN — The Planning Board gave a favorable recommendation this week for the proposed shift to a new type of form-based code in the residential area surrounding Court Street, moving it one step closer to passage.

The public hearing was conducted a week after the City Council voted 5-2 during a first reading on the proposal, with many of the same residents speaking on the contentious issue.

The zoning, known as T-4.2B, was created following concerns from neighborhood residents over the previous iteration that allows for more variety of housing types and commercial uses in the mostly single-family neighborhoods. However, a number of residents, including those behind a citizens’ petition effort, argue that the new zoning has been created without sufficient input from the public and needs more public support to ultimately be successful.

Many have also said that new zoning of the 1,687 acres will represent too broad of a change, impacting many streets that are very different from the more dense neighborhoods closer to downtown. Planning Board member Riley Bergeron, who voted against the change, argued that the areas north of Park Avenue should be excluded from the board’s recommendation.

“This 1,600 acres is not one neighborhood,” said former Councilor Bob Hayes.

City officials and those in support have said the zoning is meant as a way to encourage new types of in-fill development, small neighborhood businesses and other uses that can promote more walkable neighborhoods. They also argue that it will put the city a step ahead of LD 2003, state legislation that is set to allow more density statewide when it becomes law next year.


Planning Board Chairman Evan Cyr said that once enacted, LD 2003 will allow the same housing density in most areas currently proposed by T-4.2B, but will not address the high number of nonconforming lots that officials hope to eliminate with the zone change.

Previously, the group known as Citizens for Sensible Growth successfully petitioned the city to repeal the previous T-4.2 zoning in the area due to concerns over multiunit apartment buildings and businesses popping up in single-family neighborhoods. City officials have said that in the short window when it was in place, the zoning led to building renovations and additions that wouldn’t have previously been allowed on nonconforming lots.

John Blais, deputy director of Planning and Permitting for the city, said form-based code allows the “preservation of neighborhoods,” which he said is “what people have said they want.”

Ryan Smith, one of the petitioners who has been outspoken against the change, said Auburn’s proposal is “way above and beyond what LD 2003 requires,” and that the amended zoning “didn’t come from community input.”

“How can the community have its voice heard when it feels like a rigged system?” he asked.

Another resident said the city’s taxes are too high, and that increasing housing density and allowed uses would increase the tax base.


Several people questioned the city’s decision to hold the Planning Board hearing between two council readings, arguing that it’s part of a city effort to “rush things forward.”

An opinion from the city’s legal counsel, Sally Daggett, said conducting a first reading prior to the Planning Board hearing is legal.

Cyr disputed that the effort to shift to form-based codes has been rushed. He said when the process initially began in 2015, “the intent was always to go into this neighborhood.”

He said that a year and half ago, the Planning Board discussed moving to form-based code in a large residential area, but ultimately did not extend the change past Minot Avenue because the board was concerned the City Council at the time would “dismiss form-based code in its entirety.” He said officials at the time wanted to see how the zoning worked in a smaller area of the city, and that it has since proven to work.

During the meeting, a number of Planning Board members said they live within the area that is proposed to change.

Paul Jacques, an associate member, said as cities increase density and encourage small businesses in areas, traffic can decrease because the neighborhood layout encourages more people to walk or bike.


“This is how you slow traffic down and increase foot traffic. It does work, it’s been done in many other communities,” he said.

Bergeron and associate member Josh Daigle opposed the recommendation.

The City Council is scheduled to take up a final reading Monday, Sept. 19. If approved, the zoning would go into effect within 30 days.

On Wednesday, Mayor Jason Levesque said he was “impressed with the process” Tuesday.

“I’m looking forward to vigorous debate at the City Council, and making an educated decision based on results and what’s best for the entire city,” he said.

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