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.