Slaughterhouse has implications for half of Auburn

Maine politicians are suddenly all about cutting "red tape" to make doing business in Maine easier and less expensive, and we have applauded the shift in attitude.

But changing longstanding zoning rules for half the city of Auburn for a single business should not be done quickly and without careful consideration — especially when that business is a slaughterhouse.

Developer Craig Linke would like to open Mainestock, a stand-alone slaughterhouse on 21.5 acres at 512 Trapp Road.

Linke was also involved in a chicken farm and processing facility on the same site in 1998 that failed.

In Auburn, slaughterhouses are allowed as stand-alone facilities in industrial zones, which makes complete sense. Industrial property is usually distant from residences and tied into municipal water and waste systems capable of handling volumes of bodily fluids and waste.

The Trapp Road location is close to several homeowners, three of whom have formally objected to the zoning change.

The entire area is zoned agricultural and it does not have municipal water or sewer.

The city's Planning Board has been studying the issue for several months, and councilors Mike Farrell and Dan Herrick have expressed frustration that the process is taking so long.

Meanwhile, Gov.-elect Paul LePage has been conducting red-tape listening sessions around the state where businesspeople have expressed frustration with overlapping state regulation and shifting rules.

Many have said, however, that they do not object to reasonable regulation, only that it be clear and consistent.

Auburn's agricultural zoning rules have been just that, clear and consistent, for more than 30 years.

And they were designed with several objectives in mind.  First, like all zoning rules, they are intended to prevent conflicts between adjacent users.

They were also written to help preserve open space and traditional agricultural uses in the city.

The objective has been to limit strip and spot development, which eventually requires the costly extension of city services, such as sewer and water, to distant areas.

The goal was to limit "urban sprawl" and concentrate development in existing areas near schools and utilities.

Previously, Farrell and Herrick expressed frustration that land around Lake Auburn is controlled by a joint Twin Cities water district and difficult to develop. That has been for the obvious purpose of protecting the two cities' water supply.

Such land-use rules are critical to the thoughtful development of any city. Those rules may not please everyone, but over time they shape the look, feel and logical function of a community.

Zoning rules cannot be applied in isolation. In other words, a decision to allow a commercial slaughterhouse on Trapp Road would eventually apply to all city land zoned for agriculture, which is about half the town.

Councilors come and go with each passing election. Zoning rules are meant to provide consistency for all residents over many decades.

The Auburn Planning Board should study the implications of this decision carefully before making such a far-reaching decision.

Whether that takes six months or 12 is only of consequence to the developer. Making the right decision is important to all.

editorialboard@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

And you call yourselves journalists

Almost every "fact" you site in this editorial is incorrect. Do you check anything?

The Ag zone in Auburn does not equate to 50% of the land mass of Auburn. City staff has put the number at 40%, and that does not include the ag areas used for parks, golf courses, Lake Auburn watershed, Taylor Pond watershed or any of the wetlands protected by the Shorelands Protection Area. If you take all these areas out of the equation - like the planning board did on Tuesday night - then we are down to about 20-25% of Auburn.

Mr Linke was only associated with the former chicken slaughter facility there as much as a family member might be associated with it. It was Thomas Linke who owned the land at 512 Trapp Rd, not Craig Linke, the current applicant.

Next, most slaughterhouses in this region have their own water and sewer systems. Most are not on any municipal lines. Most of the offal (waste from slaugher activities) must be trucked offsite daily - not washed down the drains. That would be completely contrary to Maine State rules and regulations regarding slaughter facilities.

Industrial zones are not suited for slaughter facilities for a number of reasons. First, the higher noise levels of an industrial area are unsettling for the animals. Also, should an animal somehow escape - which occasionally happens when a farmer is trying to get them from trailer to holding pen - it would create chaos in the industrial zone with increased noise, a higher volume of traffic and people, and an abundance of asphalt which confuses the animal and creates panic in the animal as it can't get proper footing like it can on grass.

The nearest "neighbor" to the proposed property on Trapp Rd - and this actually has no bearing on the proposed change brought before the planning board as the change is not site specific - is actually a home owned by the Linke Farm LLC. The nearest unrelated home is about a quarter mile away with other "neighbors" even further away. One of the neighbors who is complaining moved into the area when the chicken slaughter facility was in operation - so what has changed so much between then and now?

The planning board hasn't "studied" anything the past three months. During the meeting on Tuesday they were still clueless as to how a slaughterhouse operates. They have done zero research. They have had the State of Maine Veteranarian come before them and apparently got nothing from her talk. They were concerned with outside pens and screen fences. There are lots of pens of animals in the Ag zone. Why do we need to screen this particular pen? Also, one planning board member questioned how to appropriately ensure there is enough greenspace. The building has nearly 22 acres of greenspace! Again, if the planning board were actually studying the situation I may be inclined to agree with the editorial board but so far at least they have simply wasted everyone's time.

Slaughtering animals is a very natural part of farming. And farming is agriculture...so, if ever a slaughterhouse were meant to be somewhere, the ag zone would be the correct area for it. Slaughterhouses are a natural fit in an agricultural zone. As Mr Miller pointed out at the Oct 4, 2010 city council meeting, the Ag zone is really an industrial zone and is not intended to be a residential zone. The planning board has allowed strip zoning along many roads in the ag zone to become rural residential, putting the viability of the ag land further off the road in question. These strip zones should be dismantled and put back into ag zone for use in ag operations. Auburn has a history of strong farms and that is now sorely lacking due to the encroachment of rural residential and Low Density Country Residential zoning decisions. The Ag zone is not there for you to buy land, get the zoning changed, and then sell at a huge mark up. The zone is for raising animals and crops.

Councilors Farrell and to a lesser extent Herrick have not proposed increasing development in the Lake Auburn watershed. They have stated they are opposed to a non-profit buying all the land and taking it off the tax rolls. They are pointing out that Auburn is losing a great deal of tax revenue. Further, Lake Auburn has been crystal clear for nearly a century without taking those tax generating properties off the tax rolls. I have never heard them encourage development, they are simply asking to maintain the status quo and keep the properties around the lake generating income to the city.

Again, the council and planning board are well aware we are not looking only at the Trapp Road property. The editorial board seems to be the ones with the narrow view here.

Again, the planning board should think about this carefully. However, at the same time they are thinking perhaps they could visit a slaughter facility or at least google the state regulations so they can have some facts to base their thoughts on.

And maybe the editorial board should find some journalistic integrity and do some research before you pop off another baseless editorial.

 's picture

slaughter house

I've been watching with interest as this story has developed. I consider myself a backyard farmer, having raised pigs, turkeys, meat birds and laying hens. I appreciate the need for access to someplace to process livestock. However, I'm not sure that this zoning change should be granted. I too believe that the industrial park would be the best place for this enterprise. If this was already a working farm, and wanted to expand their business opportunity, then I may feel differently.

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