Workers burn debris, foreground, March 29 in preparation for the second phase of the Stable Ridge housing development off Court Street in Auburn. An Androscoggin County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the city and Stable Ridge developer American Development Group following an appeal from Auburn resident and mayoral candidate Jeff Harmon. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — A judge affirmed a recent Planning Board decision to approve a second phase of development at the Stable Ridge housing complex following a legal appeal by Auburn resident and mayoral candidate Jeff Harmon.

The appeal, filed in Androscoggin County Superior Court, argued that the city did not follow its zoning ordinance when approving the site plan for phase two of the development off Court Street, which calls for 60 additional units in five buildings. Harmon is an abutter to the project.

The complaint from Harmon said the site plan measured the building setback from the development’s access way or parking lot, a privately owned lot, rather than from the edge of the public way, on Court Street. However, the city argued that the zoning was written to allow both.

A decision issued by Superior Court Justice Harold Stewart II on Wednesday said the zoning ordinance is “unambiguous,” and that the “plain language of the ordinance indicates that front setbacks may be measured from public rights of way, accessways or parking lots.”

Stewart also said the Planning Board decision is consistent with the purpose of the zoning, the T-4.2B form-based code that Auburn has been implementing to increase housing flexibility.

The judge also agreed with the city in that the purpose of allowing front setbacks to be measured from accessways other than a public way is to make use of the entirety of the lot.


“This not only conforms with the purpose of the ordinance by allowing the density of the development to be driven by the form and configuration of the lot, it avoids the absurd and illogical result of confining (American Development Group’s) development to solely the small portion of the lot that borders Court Street,” Stewart said.

A statement from Jessica Klimek, president of American Development Group, said, “the court ruling was as expected and we are happy to put this behind us.”

“With that said, as residents of Auburn, we have great concern with the fact that this lawsuit was filed by Jeff Harmon in the first place given he is also running for the seat of mayor,” she said.

“Auburn has made great strides towards solving some of the top issues faced by any city of reasonable size in this economy,” she said, adding that “they’ve done so by driving economic development within our city walls.”

According to a statement from City Manager Phil Crowell, Harmon has 21 days to file an appeal. Crowell said the city spent $6,500 in legal fees defending the lawsuit.

Reached on Monday, Harmon said he had not seen the full ruling, but he said his appeal was made in order to “allow the public to fully understand the implications” of the 4.2B zoning.

He said he hoped to clarify the way setbacks are measured “to understand the implications of the ordinance and not to affect any particular development,” and that in order to seek that clarification from the Superior Court, the plaintiff must be an abutter.

Harmon said he hopes people see that the zoning “does not just create urban walkable neighborhoods but also supports urban sprawl in non-urban portions of the city.”

Stewart’s decision found that the development follows the zoning in that “the development will be walkable, with interconnected sidewalks that provide access from each building to Court Street.”

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