AUBURN — The Lake Auburn Watershed Protection Commission has hired a consultant to conduct a peer review of the city’s most recent study of Lake Auburn, and is calling on city officials to hold off on proposed changes until the review is complete.

A resolution from the commission, which the City Council will discuss Monday, comes as officials ready for votes on proposed changes in the coming weeks, including updated septic design standards in the watershed.

The resolution states that the city’s “proposed revisions to the existing Lake Auburn watershed zoning ordinances should not be amended until such time as” the peer review has been completed.

The commission hired consultant Comprehensive Environmental Inc. to conduct a $6,000 review of a study completed last year by FB Environmental.

The data and recommendations in that study have been used to formulate several proposed changes to zoning and watershed rules that have since become controversial. A recommendation to remove a large portion of land from the watershed boundary resulted in a lawsuit between Lewiston and the Auburn Water District.

The new septic rules, if approved, 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. The initial report from FB Environmental recommended updating to a better performing septic design, but acknowledged the change would make more lots available to be developed.

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In response to concerns from the public, the City Council tabled a vote on the new septic standards this spring so the Planning Board could consider a shift to a three-acre lot size minimum in the watershed.

In August, the city received updated modeling from FB Environmental based on the larger lot sizes that said the changes would decrease the buildable acreage and projected new houses in the watershed.

The commission, made up of government officials and residents of Auburn, Lewiston and upper watershed towns, was formed in 1993.

During a recent commission meeting, Vice Chairman Mary Ann Brenchick said that with a potential vote on the septic design nearing, the commission had a “responsibility” to look closely at the FB Environmental report and proposed changes.

CEI has also conducted a review of data specific to the watershed boundary along Gracelawn Road, but has not released a final version of its review.

The resolution states that CEI will “evaluate the conclusions drawn from the FB Environmental report and technical memorandum as they pertain to development and water quality impacts on Lake Auburn.”

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It also states that the “evaluation of results of CEI conclusions may have an impact on the recommendations of the commission to the city of Auburn regarding the city of Auburn’s decision to approve the revised septic ordinance.”

According to a memo, the resolution was adopted Sept. 14 by a 5-2 vote with one abstention.

During the meeting, commissioners expressed some confusion over the process, with some questioning the merits of hiring a consultant.

Dan Bilodeau, who also serves as an Auburn Water District trustee, voted against the resolution. He said the city of Lewiston should pay for the “second opinion.”

“If you guys want to question the data then the people who want to question it should pay for the study,” he said.

Commission Chairman Evan Cyr abstained from the vote due to his role as chairman of the Auburn Planning Board.

Brenchick said the resolution came forward due to the timing of when the Auburn City Council would be considering the ordinance changes.

The proposed septic ordinance is not on the council agenda for Monday.


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