AUBURN — A series of recommended changes to Lake Auburn watershed rules, including recognizing a new watershed boundary, will receive public hearings next month.

The Planning Board this week approved setting the hearings after an ad hoc committee formed by the Auburn Water District recommended several zoning amendments in the watershed, including a previously proposed septic system ordinance and a new watershed boundary along Gracelawn Road.

The ad hoc Lake Auburn Water Quality Committee, formed this past summer, has recently reviewed the recommended watershed changes, some of which have been the subject of controversy over their potential impact on water quality.

Auburn Water District Superintendent Mike Broadbent previously told the Sun Journal that the Lake Auburn Watershed Protection Commission had outlined several recommended changes for the Auburn Water District to consider, but he thought a committee featuring members of all parties was the best way forward. The committee also features members from Lewiston.

In late September, the committee sent its recommendations to the Auburn Water District and Lewiston Water Division, stating it recommends the adoption of the zoning amendments “for the protection of Lake Auburn.”

The committee also recommended that Auburn Water District and Lewiston Water Division forward the proposed changes to the Maine Drinking Water Program for review.


Broadbent said Thursday that “while the recommendations of the ad hoc committee show consensus amongst that group, there is still work to be done. These changes still need review and approval from the AWD Board and the DWP.”

The Maine Drinking Water Program recently approved setting a new watershed boundary, which it says is conservative based on existing data. The line runs just south of the main gravel pit area operated by Gendron & Gendron Inc. However, the Drinking Water Program said further investigation would be needed to establish a boundary closer to Lake Auburn.

A map from consultant CDM Smith shows the Gracelawn Road parcel at the center of a debate over watershed rules. The Maine Drinking Water Program approves of a new watershed boundary, shown in light blue, to protect Lake Auburn, which is indicated in green at upper left.

One of the recommendations up for discussion at the Nov. 14 public hearing will be whether to rezone the section of the Gracelawn property that would be taken out of the watershed overlay zone.

The Planning Board agreed this week that if changed, it should shift to the General Business zone, which allows for a wide range of housing and some commercial uses. According to a memo, the piece is 59 acres.

Gendron has previously outlined plans for housing development on the property, but the level of development will depend on the boundary and zoning for the land. A consultant for Gendron told the Sun Journal recently that they plan to collect further data on the land to potentially amend the boundary closer to the lake.

The septic ordinance change, which has previously been heavily debated, was put on hold by the city. It would coincide with a proposal that would shift the minimum lot size in the watershed to three acres. The proposal came in response to data showing that the septic ordinance change, while updating to better performing systems, would allow for more buildable lots.


“We all recognize it creates some new buildable lots, but we hope the one (acre) to three (acre) change would stop that,” Eric Cousens, director of planning and permitting, said.

Current systems would be grandfathered until they need replacement.

Cousens said the ad hoc committee recommended potentially funding “a pool of resources” including low- or no-interest loans to help people make the upgrade if needed.

Cousens said the septic standard is “significantly more restrictive than state mandates.”

When discussing the watershed boundary Tuesday, Planning Board member Evan Cyr questioned why the city was making the change. He said according to charter, the city follows the boundary set by the Auburn Water District, and the district has not yet made the change.

He said allowing the Water District to first make the change “would take a political decision out of play here.”


Cousens said the city’s legal counsel requires that the city hold public hearings and votes on zoning amendments.

“We do have to have an open public process to amend a zoning map that’s adopted by the city,” he said.

Cyr made a motion that the Planning Board’s public hearing on the boundary be contingent on the Auburn Water District adopting the new boundary, as well as being provided legal justification from the city’s attorney “for the need to do this.”

During public comment Tuesday, Steven Beal said the Planning Board should hold off on hearings until the Water District acts, and that there are “far too many items being conflated here” to lump all the hearings together.

John Cleveland agreed.

“Imagine for a second what an ordinary citizen would be facing to try to comment on all these items bundled together,” he said, referring to the board’s lengthy discussion and questions on the proposals.

It’s unclear what impact the proposed changes, and work produced by the ad hoc committee, will have on the ongoing litigation between the city of Lewiston and the Auburn Water District.

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