Council agrees to composting zoning change

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AUBURN — A plan to allow composting businesses in the city’s agriculture zone passed its first test Monday.

Councilors approved a zoning amendment to allow composting businesses on first reading Monday, despite some concerns about coyotes looting compost piles.

“I think this will probably be a great thing,” Councilor Dan Herrick said. “I do my own composting and just this weekend I had one of my piles dug up by a coyote. So I don’t know if there is protection involved in this, but I would suggest a fence.”

The amendment will come back to councilors for second vote at their next meeting.

Current zoning does not mention private standalone composting facilities. It allows composting as an accessory — part of a home or a farm — and allows large-scale operations for municipal use.

The zoning change would allow composting of manure, bedding, dead animals, wasted feed, leaves, yard waste and forestry by-products across the zone.

The city’s planning board agreed with those changes, but voted to make them a special exception and not a permitted use. That would require anyone building a standalone composting facility to get city approval beforehand.

Councilors did limit the amendment to the city’s Agriculture and Resource Protection zone, voting to amend the nearly identical Low Density Country Residential district by not allowing standalone composting facilities.

If councilors approve, it will clear the way for property owner Michelle Melaragno, of 576 Trapp Road, to open a dead-animal composting facility on her property.

Her plan is to take animals, especially horses, for grieving owners. Disposing of a large animal like that can be an expensive proposition.

But Melaragno said she looked forward to working with other groups. She could help dispose of roadkill for city public works crews, for example.

“Instead of just putting stuff in our landfills, we can go with composting,” she said. “I don’t know how much roadkill they get on a daily basis, but where does it go? It doesn’t have to go to a landfill.”

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