Auburn mayor backs area lawmakers' bill to exempt new density rules for lots around Lake Auburn

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Apr. 28—AUGUSTA — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, would dictate that lots or portions of lots within the watershed of a water source that has a filtration waiver from federal regulations are exempt from the new state housing density law.

The exemption, which would be added to a law ratified last year, would limit housing units within the Lake Auburn watershed.

Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque applauded the legislation.

"I'm happy that legislators from both cities recognize what we are doing is correct and are helping us to protect what happens with the water sources here and in the upper watershed towns," Levesque said.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Auburn Reps. Adam Lee and Kathleen Shaw, as well as Lewiston Reps. Kristen Cloutier, Mana Abdi, Margaret Craven and Michael Lajoie.

The legislation appears to be a response to LD 2003, which was passed last year to increase new housing opportunities by increasing housing density.

According to the summary included with the bill, it "provides that lots or portions of lots that are within the watershed of a water source that has received a waiver from filtration (from the federal government) . . . are exempt from certain restrictions related to affordable housing density, the allowed number of dwelling units and accessory dwelling units."

Lake Auburn received a filtration waiver from the government in 1991.

Rotundo did not return calls Thursday afternoon seeking comment.

According to Levesque, the city has submitted a proposal to limit the housing density in the area. Zoning now allows for one residence per acre, but he wants to change that to one building per three acres.

Levesque blames the city of Lewiston and its lawsuit against the Auburn Water District for delaying progress on the issue.

The civil complaint filed by Lewiston in May 2022 asks the court to declare that the Auburn Water District does not have the authority to change the definition of the Lake Auburn watershed or its boundary, and that any increased development causing pollution to the lake goes against the Water District's charter and its agreement with Lewiston.

Lewiston's lawsuit was in response to Auburn city officials' decision to rezone 148 acres between the Auburn Mall area and the lake in March 2022, as well as ongoing discussions about updating septic design standards in the watershed.

Lewiston officials have said those decisions could increase development near the lake, which could lower water quality and force the water district to install a filtration system.

Mediation failed to resolve the issue.

Auburn Water District has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the complaint is outside the court's jurisdiction.

"AWD is a municipal entity with expressly reserved legislative authority in its Charter granted to it by the Maine Legislature. The City of Lewiston and this Court do not have the power to initiate or dictate AWD's legislative authority," the motion states.