AUBURN — City officials gave initial approval this week for rezoning 33 acres off dead-end Andrew Drive in the area of Mount Gile for potential residential development.

The property owner, listed as John Reeder, requested the rezone through a petition — a city charter provision that allows anyone to request a zone change with the signatures of 25 registered voters.

During previous hearings, several neighboring residents said no abutters signed or supported the petition and they are concerned for new development on a parcel that has historically been used for recreation.

However, a majority of officials on the Planning Board and City Council have argued the rezone makes sense as the city prioritizes residential growth from the city core outward, where there are city utilities. Several councilors have also pointed out the land directly abuts other residential zones.

The council’s first reading Tuesday, approved 4-2, came after the rezone request was previously sent back to the Planning Board after city staff said board member Brian Dubois should not have been allowed to take part in a discussion after recusing himself from the vote due to a conflict of interest.

Dubois, a real estate agent who is representing the property owner, has since resigned from the board. During a subsequent hearing, the board gave another favorable recommendation to the council.


At 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.”

It is in the area of Mount Gile, which lies between state Route 4 and the Androscoggin River.

A listing for the land appears on Dubois’ real estate website, which says the property is “truly an opportunity of a lifetime” with “beautiful views of Lake Auburn to the west, the Gulf Island Dam area of the Androscoggin River to the east,” and “a full panoramic view from the summit,” which is 545 feet above sea level.

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 4 acres in the watershed overlay zone.

When asked how many lots could potentially be developed, Dubois said it depends on who buys the land and their intentions. He also said topography and infrastructure also play a role.

In November, 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.


On Tuesday, City Councilor Dana Staples said while he “wasn’t sure” about the zone change at first, there is “an established pattern of residential development along this road,” and abutting land that is zoned suburban residential, which is what the petition requests. Staples quoted the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which recommends “building from the core outwards.”

“This is a natural progression,” he said.

Councilor Rick Whiting, however, said he recently took a drive nearby. He said he’s concerned with the steep grade and for soil conditions that “aren’t great.” He suggested officials go back to the neighborhood and conduct more discussion.

“I think there are better ways to deal with it,” he said, adding that he skied at Mount Gile as a kid.

He said the zone change will also create “haphazard” zoning, with different zones hopping over one another. But, he said, that would require more process.

“It needs a little more work than we’re probably going to do here,” he said.

Mayor Jason Levesque said the city should “clean up” the nonconforming lots referred to by Whiting.

Councilor Belinda Gerry, who along with Whiting voted against the petition, said the topography and proximity to water bodies also concerns her.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: