Construction continues Wednesday at an apartment building at 99 Western Ave. in Augusta. The Planning Board recently approved zoning changes to make it easier to develop similar housing projects in the city. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — The Planning Board has approved a series of zoning changes meant to make it easier to develop housing in Augusta and comply with state mandates intended to help address the ongoing housing crisis.

If approved by the City Council, the changes would allow accessory dwelling units, which include small homes or attachments to homes, to be built on all existing lots where one- or two-family homes are now allowed.

The changes would also create an affordable housing district throughout much of the city and allow apartment buildings to be built in some zones where they are not allowed now.

The Planning Board met several times to discuss the changes needed to bring local land use rules into compliance with the requirements of LD 2003, state legislation enacted last year that overrode some municipalities’ ordinances.

Board members voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve them, and recommended they be adopted by the City Council.

One change would allow multifamily apartment buildings as a conditional use in nearly all zoning districts in the city, including several districts where they are not allowed now.


That does not mean apartments could be built anywhere in Augusta. As conditional uses, new apartment buildings would be reviewed by the Planning Board, which would consider specific proposals and how they could impact neighborhoods, before deciding whether to approve them.

Matt Nazar, the city’s development director, said allowing multiunit housing as conditional uses in nearly all zones in Augusta was the easiest way to comply with complicated state requirements.

Nazar said city councilors also have a goal this year to increase the availability of housing, so the zoning changes address the new state mandates and further city goals to encourage housing development. The city has until January 2024 to meet the requirements of LD 2003.

“As a community where we’re hoping for more residential growth, the easiest way to address (state mandates on multifamily dwellings) was to add multifamily dwellings, where they are already conditional uses in the vast majority of districts,” Nazar said. “And they’re typically something that has to come to the Planning Board for site plan review anyway.”

Construction continues Wednesday at an apartment building at 99 Western Ave. in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The changes largely use state-provided definitions, including for accessory dwelling units that, according to Nazar, are individualized dwelling units, meaning each contains living, cooking and bathroom facilities, and can be attached or separate from a one-family dwelling unit on the same land parcel.

They would not be subject to any of the lot size, density or parking requirements that other dwelling units must meet, but would have to meet setback requirements from neighboring structures.


Those accessory dwelling units, which were not contemplated in the city’s current zoning, would be a new use allowed in all districts where one- and two-family dwellings are now allowed. Like homes, they would be a permitted use in all districts, except the industrial district, where they would be a conditional use, and the government services district, where they would not be allowed.

The proposal would also create a large affordable housing district covering much of Augusta, an area the city has previously identified as its desired “growth area,” which Nazar said roughly mirrors where sewer and water pipes now serve the city.

Within that affordable housing district, developers of housing projects that meet the state’s definition of affordable housing would get a “density bonus” allowing them to build two-and-a-half times the number of units per square feet of lot area otherwise allowed in that base zoning district.

Nazar said the city’s proposal would also exceed the requirements of LD 2003 by giving the Planning Board the flexibility to allow multifamily housing to be built in the city’s Capital Commerce District, which generally consists of commercial districts along major road corridors, even if proposals fall short of the city’s requirements for square footage per housing unit.

Such proposals would be reviewed by the Planning Board, which would use conditional use criteria, and the requirements could be lessened for individual projects.

Nazar said the language allows the Planning Board to make allowances for specific projects, much as the city’s current rules allow the board to consider allowing greater building heights in some instances, when requested by developers.


Construction continues Wednesday at an apartment building at 99 Western Ave. in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

In 2022, Planning Board members allowed developer Matt Morrill, who also developed the Stevens Commons property in Hallowell, to build a 38-unit apartment building, which required the city waive some of its zoning regulations in a contract zone approved by city councilors, including floor area ratio standards that regulate the amount of floor area of developments as compared to the total lot area.

The board also granted a waiver of the city’s normal requirement that apartments in that zone have at least two parking spaces per unit. The apartments at 99 Western Ave., which are now under construction, are expected to have 46 parking spaces, or 1.13 per dwelling unit.

Nazar said the proposed changes would allow the Planning Board to make adjustments to housing density requirements on a case-by-case basis without the project needing to obtain a waiver from those requirements from the city.

No member of the public spoke Tuesday night on any of the proposed changes, which next go to the City Council. Councilor would be required to hold two public hearings before considering approval.

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