JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — A lawsuit settlement between Washington County and BrightRidge over a controversial Bitcoin mine didn’t reach the Washington County Commission Monday, delayed as the parties have yet to finalize a specific piece of land for a new location.
The county commission, BrightRidge and mine operator Red Dog Technologies struck a draft agreement on June 9 that would get the current mine out of the New Salem community of Limestone and replace it with new equipment on five acres somewhere in the Washington County Industrial Park (WCIP).
That decision pleased residents of New Salem, who had complained about noise pollution from the industrial fans that cool high-powered computer equipment used to “mine” for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. The county is basing its suit on the contention that a cryptocurrency mine operated by a private company is not an approved use in the A-3 (agricultural business) zoning district.
The prospect of a relocated mine, though, quickly drew the ire of residents near the WCIP, though, despite the agreement setting a maximum noise level of 60 decibels at the new site.
Until last week county commissioners expected to vote Monday on a final settlement, which would then go before Chancellor John Rambo and bring an end to the county’s lawsuit against BrightRidge and Red Dog.
But as some of the Telford residents living near the WCIP prepared to protest the move again Monday, County Commission Chairman Greg Matherly told News Channel 11 the parties hadn’t finalized a site within the industrial park. That meant no deal, if there’s to be one, until at least August.
“We have sent back some information that Red Dog had requested to complete the agreement,” Matherly said. “We’ve not had a response back from them. There’s no agreement to discuss until we get information back from them on the agreement.”
Matherly said Red Dog had sent a list of requirements for whatever five-acre tract was selected for its new operation and that the county’s attorney had responded. Until all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed, though, he said there was no point in bringing forward a partial document.
“I think people ought to have an opportunity to look at a complete agreement, the commission as well as the public,” Matherly said.
He added that he doesn’t know of any other sticking points that would prevent a deal from being voted on in August.
As far as the WCIP goes, Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership (NETREP) CEO Mitch Miller said the 228-acre park still has several parcels totaling about 70 acres that could be subdivided to suit Red Dog’s needs.
“If we need to do anything we’ve got conceptuals, we’ve done site work there,” Miller said. “We know that property better than really anybody else does, so if we’re asked we’ll definitely do what we have to do to help that process move along.”
Ultimately, though, NETREP is in the same position as the people in New Salem who want the current mine gone and the people in Telford who don’t want it there — waiting for the principal players to act.
“We manage and market the park but it’s not land that NETREP owns,” Miller said. “It’s owned by the county. So at the end of the day it’s their decision to make.”
Some of the still-available property is on the park’s west end, not far north of Grandview Elementary School. The other parcels are further east, not far from a small subdivision, many of whose residents have complained about the potential relocation to a site near their homes.