In an effort to protect natural resources and promote agricultural productivity, the City of Auburn established the Agriculture and Resource Protection (AGRP) zoning district in 1964. The “Ag Zone,” as we will be referring to it in this report, is still a critical component of Auburn’s landscape, making up 45% of the city’s total acreage (Ad Hoc Committee, 3). Since the creation of the Ag Zone in the early 1960’s, Auburn’s farming and forestry culture have changed and the population has declined.. In recent years, several committees and consultants have considered these shifting trends and have noted that amendments are necessary to current Ag Zone regulations. As a contribution to the larger discussion on the future of the Ag Zone, our project provides a new, historical perspective on how land use and land cover has changed throughout Auburn, since the establishment of the Ag Zone. An understanding of these changes can give Ag Zone stakeholders a more holistic understanding of the effectiveness of this district’s zoning, as well as potential alternatives for the future of Auburn. In this report, we introduce the Ag Zone’s priorities and goals, as well as maps displaying the changes in land use in this district between the years 1973 and 2018. It is important to acknowledge that we also explored the Ag Zone’s original intent to protect forest and agricultural land from development and how these initial priorities continue to be apparent in current Ag Zone land use practices. In addition to this major mapping component, this report also exam 3 maps, demonstrating land cover of the Ag Zone in 1973 and land cover in 2018, as well as current and historical boundaries of the Ag Zone. One overall trend found in our analysis is that the Ag Zone has decreased by roughly 5,000 acres since its creation. This decrease in acreage is due to rezoning which extended Rural Residential opportunities, particularly along city roads and Interstate-95. However, the original restrictions remain in place and have effectively limited development in rural Auburn. The classified categories of land cover that the 1973 and 2018 maps convey include water, forest, fields and developed land. Upon classification, we examined the acreage of each land cover category and how these numbers have shifted in recent decades. One of the noteworthy changes was that in 1973, the Ag Zone consisted of roughly 54% forest while in 2018, roughly 62% of the Ag Zone was forested. Previously tilled fields have grown in with forests largely due to an overall declining trend in farming. Thus, there has clearly been an overall pattern of reforestation in the Ag Zone, and an increase in forest acreage in all of Auburn as well. In other words, forest continues to be the dominant resource in Auburn and in the Ag Zone. As a result of increase in forests, “fields” in the Ag Zone have decreased by approximately 3,500 acres, or by 34%. Fields have decreased overall in Auburn, but also in the Ag Zone as well. It is also interesting to note that in Auburn, there has been a 16% overall increase in developed land, while the Ag Zone has seen a 33% decrease in the percentage of land which is covered by development. The 16% overall increase in development has taken place in districts that have either never been Ag Zone or were previously Ag Zone which has since been rezoned to Rural Residential. 4 With our data gathered from map classifications, we examined other regions’ approaches to regulating agriculture and natural resource protection zones. This report, in particular, includes analysis of transfer of development rights (TDR) programs, cluster development plans, and rezoning strategies. A robust discussion on alternatives is included in the Results and Discussion section of this report with additional insight of our process and extended examples in the appendices. Alternatives explo 5 The overall goal of this project was to provide additional insight on the current discussion of the future of Auburn’s Agriculture and Resource Protection District. Showing how Auburn’s land has changed over time is imperative in having a comprehensive discussion on what is the best course of action for the future of the Ag Zone. The work we have done in this project is foundational in building an extensive knowledge on not just changes to the Ag Zone, but on all of Auburn. Although discrepancies do exist in mapping, with extensive time, the classification process could be refined to fix potential issues and to provide the most accurate picture of land use changes as possible. With this, we recommend additional GIS resources be allocated to a potential internship position for the city, or taken over by another Capstone group to continue the work of this project. In addition, we hope that Auburn can look at alternative approaches to land use and consider how these varieties of approaches have potential to be integrated into discussion on the future of the Ag Zone.
Lynch, Signe; Krull, Emerson; and Anderson, William, "Land Use Changes and Zoning Alternatives in Auburn, Maine's Agriculture and Resource Protection District" (2019). Community Engaged Research Reports. 55.