The property owner at 150 Andrew Drive in Auburn is looking to rezone 33 acres out of the Agricultural Zone in order to sell for potential residential development. Google Maps screenshot

AUBURN — A proposed rezoning of land in East Auburn will return to the Planning Board after city staff said a local policy was not followed during an earlier hearing.

The City Council opted to send the issue back to the Planning Board instead of holding a first reading on the rezoning Monday.

Last month, the Planning Board gave a favorable recommendation for the zone change request for 33 acres in the area of Andrew Drive, however city staff said that a policy related to conflicts of interest was not followed. Councilors said the issue should be sent back to the board to begin a “clean” process.

During the initial hearing, Planning Board member Brian Dubois, a real estate agent, recused himself due to his position as the seller’s agent. However, during the hearing, he spoke on behalf of the seller after being advised to do so by board chairman Evan Cyr.

In a memo this week, staff said that while state law allows it, local Planning Board policy “is more stringent, and does not allow it.”

City Manager Phil Crowell said Monday the board “will be placed on notice regarding the policy,” and that staff would make sure “it doesn’t happen again.”


During the November hearing, Dubois said the Andrew Drive property features views of Lake Auburn and the Androscoggin River, and is “wonderfully suited for mixed housing of all varieties.”

Eric Cousens, director of planning and permitting, said in a memo that “the board member did as he was advised and had no intention of violating a policy or rule.”

Councilor Rick Whiting made the motion to refer the request back to the Planning Board “so this is a clean transaction.” The council also added that the issue should be sent to city legal counsel for review.

Most councilors said they do not have an issue with the merits of the rezoning itself. During the initial hearing, some residents expressed concern with the origin of the request, which came from a City Charter provision that allows anyone to request a zone change with a petition signed by 25 registered voters.

On Monday, residents who have been following the city’s recent rezoning discussions and been involved in previous petition efforts, said the Planning Board decision highlights larger issues.

Jeff Harmon said state law, not just the local rules, “clearly says such members should not communicate or address the board if they have a conflict,” adding, “the guidance isn’t vague.”

John Cleveland said Dubois was given “bad advice,” but that it’s an “important rule” designed to prevent a member of the board “presenting to the board he sits on. That’s the reason why it’s there.”

The council vote to refer it back to the Planning Board was unanimous.

Dubois had previously been the subject of an ethics complaint due to his vote on the Stable Ridge housing development. Dubois represented the buyer when the property was purchased but had no involvement in its subsequent development.

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