The gravel pit between Gracelawn Road and Lake Auburn in Auburn, seen in April 2023, has been at the center of a debate over the Lake Auburn watershed boundary and water quality protections. Officials are attempting to delay a zone change that would allow development at the location. The City Council will formally respond Monday to a Planning Board request asking officials to clarify the reasoning for postponing the zone change. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

AUBURN — A proposal to delay the effective date of new zoning at a 60-acre parcel off Gracelawn Road is still being debated by the City Council and Planning Board.

On Monday, the City Council will formally respond to a Planning Board request asking officials to clarify the reasoning for postponing the zone change, and further guidance on what amendments to the zone they’d like to see.

The land owned by John Gendron, which features a gravel pit, has been a central part of an ongoing debate over Lake Auburn protections, and the request to delay the zone change until July was among the first items approved by the new City Council in December.

A memo to the council from the Planning Board last month said board Chairman Stacey Leblanc “does not believe she has enough information to change where (the Planning Board) arrived,” and would like the council to explain the “justification for reconsidering a decision that staff recommended based on the Comprehensive Plan.”

The change from the Agriculture and Resource Protection zone to General Business, which allows for a range of commercial uses and housing, went into effect Dec. 9, 2023. Gendron has previously laid out plans to develop a large piece of the property into housing.

In its response to the Planning Board, which appears on the March 4 agenda, the council lays out four items that “need further consideration,” including “the status of current gravel mining operations, both within and outside of the Lake Auburn watershed, and future plans for mining operations; ensuring continued access to the abutting city owned landfill; whether potential topographical changes caused by development will present a risk to the drinking water quality; and whether General Business is the appropriate district regulation to be applied, in whole or in part, to these parcels.”

The council memo states that the delayed applicability date of the zoning would allow the city to consider amendments to the zone or potential agreements with Gendron “that could address these concerns and better position the parcel for a successful transition from the current use as a gravel mining and processing operation, to something that provides greater community benefit and supports the protection of Lake Auburn.”

Eric Cousens, director of planning and permitting, said Gendron is aware of the ongoing discussions between the council and Planning Board. Gendron could technically submit plans under the current zoning, but Cousens said he does not intend to do so.

If the resolution is approved by the council Monday, the Planning Board is expected to take up the issue again April 9.

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