AUBURN — The City Council will soon take up a proposed zone change in the East Auburn area that, if approved, would take some 33 acres from the agricultural zone and place it in a residential zone.

The change, sought by a longtime landowner on Andrew Drive, was initiated by a petition — a city charter provision that allows anyone to request a zone change with the signatures of 25 registered voters.

During a recent Planning Board hearing, during which the board gave a favorable recommendation for the change, abutters to the property said they only found out about the request after they received a notice from the planning office.

One resident said the petition wasn’t signed by any resident in the neighborhood. Another said the charter provision will simply allow zoning changes to occur throughout the city, initiated by a “small group of people.”

“It’s unbelievable to me that others can come sign a petition and dictate to a neighborhood how the zoning is going to change for them,” Razell Ward said. “If the Planning Board allows that this time, how is that going to prevent this from happening again and again?”

Planning Board member Brian Dubois, a real estate agent representing the property owner on the project, recused himself from the board’s discussion on the zone change.


Dubois said the sloping property, featuring views of Lake Auburn and the Androscoggin River, is “wonderfully suited for mixed housing of all varieties,” with little impact to city services based on the density requested.

Neighbors have used the land for hunting, hiking and other recreation for years with permission from the property owner. While the property abuts the Lake Auburn watershed boundary, the zone change request would keep more than four acres in the watershed overlay zone.

Those on the board voting in favor said the surrounding area is already “behaving” like the proposed residential zoning, with a strip of homes along the road that are nonconforming to the agricultural zone they are in. The discussion among some members went to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which lists the East Auburn area among those to be considered for future growth.

Planning Board Chairman Evan Cyr said he was “surprised” that the parcel was in the agricultural zone to begin with.

“As far as planning, this makes sense to extend a zone that already exists and is not inconsistent with houses there,” he said.

Asked what the zone change could yield in terms of housing units, Planning Director Eric Cousens estimated it would allow five new homes with current road frontage, but said the number could go up if the proposal was for condominiums or other housing types, or if additional roads were built.


Cousens said the zone change request will go to the City Council for two readings.

The petition and subsequent Planning Board recommendation could be a precursor to another zone change request that’s already in the pipeline.

Weeks ago, John Gendron submitted a petition to rezone a 58-acre piece of his land off Gracelawn Road, which had been the subject of an earlier citizens’ petition blocking a zone change.

That request has yet to come before the Planning Board, and according to Cyr, is not slated for the December agenda.

During public comment, Ryan Smith, who has been outspoken against recent rezoning efforts in the city, criticized Dubois’ decision to represent a property owner going before the Planning Board. Smith had previously filed an ethics complaint against Dubois related to his vote on the Stable Ridge housing project.

“How did we get here again?” he asked the board.

Cyr responded that it has been prior practice to allow a member to represent someone before the board as long as they recuse themselves from the vote.

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