AUBURN — A proposed Trapp Road slaughterhouse took its first step toward approval Tuesday as city councilors favored a zoning change on first reading.
"Does this fit in the ag zone? I think it does," Councilor Ray Berube said. "That's why I will be supporting this."
Councilors will take up the matter on second reading at their Feb. 7 meeting.
If they approve it then, they'll clear the way for developer Craig Linke to apply for a special-use permit to build the large-animal slaughterhouse at the intersection of Trapp Road and Royal River Road.
Linke plans to open Mainestock, a stand-alone slaughterhouse, on 21½ acres at 512 Trapp Road. The farm, at 512 Trapp Road and the 22-acre, 526 Trapp Road immediately south, was home to a chicken farm and processing operation in 1998 that was never successful.
Linke said he planned to have 15 employees at his new operation.
Slaughtering operations are allowed on existing farms in the agriculture zone as an accessory use. They are allowed as stand-alone operations only in the city's industrial zone.
The city's current zoning is sufficient, said Michelle Melaragno, of 576 Trapp Road, a neighbor of the proposed slaughterhouse.
"If we were looking at Auburn as not allowing this anywhere, then maybe I could understand this a little better," she said. "However, we already allow this somewhere. Let's utilize that. Otherwise, we are shirking our responsibilities to our Auburn."
Melaragno also claimed the zoning change lacked public support, noting that several letters to councilors and a petition with 61 signatures she collected all argued against it.
"You seem to not be representing the taxpayers, the voters, the citizens of Auburn," she said. "Consider that if you allow this change, it opens the door for anyone to come to you with any proposal of this sort."
The city's Planning Board reviewed the matter at two meetings, recommending last week that councilors adopt some restrictions if they approve the slaughterhouse zoning change.
The board recommended not allowing such operations in the Lake Auburn and Taylor Pond watersheds. They also recommended limiting the building size to 10,000 square feet, the number of employees to 15 and the hours of operation to 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Councilors adopted all of those restrictions.
"I don't feel it is very good for the image of the city of Auburn to limit the hours of operation for a business, but I guess I can live with this," Councilor Dan Herrick said.
Linke said the operation would have a limited kitchen operation, preparing sausages and meat pies. He has created a website to promote the business: www.mainestock.com.
Linke applied for the zoning change in September, and it's taken more than three months to work through the city's review process.
The company also is investigating a site in Augusta for a slaughterhouse, according to Linke's website. But he said Tuesday that's not the case. The company would consider Augusta if his Auburn proposal failed. He does not have a specific Augusta site selected, he said.