Auburn, Maine Approves New Residential and Commercial Densities Despite Public Outcry

Auburn, Maine offers the latest an example of a small city deciding to increase its capacity for future development in response to housing pressure, even in the face of intense public opposition.

2 minute read

March 31, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

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Auburn, Maine, located in Androscoggin County in south-central Maine, this week adopted sweeping reforms of its residential zoning code.

Andrew Rice reports on the city's planning reforms for the Sun Journal after a council hearing that culminated "weeks of public scrutiny" into the proposed zoning changes. The zoning changes are intended to allow increased density of both residential and commercial development in the city's core residential area, according to Rice.

The approved zoning changes were almost downsized earlier this month after facing pushback from residents in the largely single-family residential community. "However, after a legal review found complications with the amended version, the council opted to pass the original zoning type Monday," reports Rice.

The zoning designation at the heart of the controversy is an example of a form-based code. "Several members of the public said the type of zoning, known as traditional downtown neighborhood, does not fit in with much of the proposed areas," reports Rice. The city's planning staff disagrees, and points to the city's comprehensive plan as evidence of the need for the traditional downtown neighborhood designation:

Eric Cousens, director of Planning and Permitting, said the type of zoning, also called T-4.2, was seen by staff as the one “most closely aligned” with recommendations made in the recent Comprehensive Plan update. That update calls for increasing housing density in the urban core where there are existing utilities, as well as encourage “opportunities for traditional neighborhood businesses.”

While opponents appealed to their concern for the character of their neighborhoods, proponents, including the city's elected officials, say the zoning change was necessary to address the city's housing affordability challenges. More on the debate at the council hearing can be read at the source article linked below.

Monday, March 28, 2022 in Sun Journal

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