JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) – Washington County Planning Director Angie Charles sent BrightRidge a letter Tuesday saying a controversial Bitcoin mine in rural Limestone is violating the county’s zoning resolution in two respects and should be shut down immediately.
Washington County commissioners directed Charles Monday night to send a letter calling on BrightRidge to order the operation shut down. That decision came after County Attorney Allyson Wilkinson reviewed her findings that because Red Dog Technologies was operating the mine and not BrightRidge, the use was not permitted under the A-3 district zoning.
BrightRidge requested and was granted a rezoning from A-1 to A-3 (Agriculture-Business District) in a unanimous commission vote on Feb. 20, 2020. The request mentioned a “blockchain data center,” but did not mention a Bitcoin mine nor a private partner.
A-3 includes “Public Utilities” among its allowed uses. In its introduction to A-3, Washington County’s Zoning Resolution says the district “is designed for businesses that would normally locate near agriculture activities, natural resources, etc., associated with rural areas.”
“This was a situation that was sort of pulled over our eyes. We thought it was going to be a solar farm or something for Brightridge,” Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said of the mine. “That’s just not what the business was that wound up being part of this project.”
Charles’s letter, obtained by News Channel 11 Thursday, says the land adjacent to BrightRidge’s Bailey Bridge Road substation in Limestone’s New Salem community is being “unlawfully used” on two counts.
“1) operation prior to issuance of final inspection and approval of buildings; and 2) the unpermitted use of the land.”
BrightRidge’s regular monthly board meeting fell on Tuesday. Board members and BrightRidge leadership didn’t discuss the Red Dog situation in public, opting for an executive session due to what they said was the potential for litigation.
One apparent option, though, would be for BrightRidge to tell Red Dog it needs to turn off its Bitcoin mining equipment.
But Red Dog just reported at Monday’s commission meeting it had put more than $500,000 into noise mitigation efforts.
Loud noise from the fans that cool computer servers in the mine’s 15 metal pods was the original source of neighbors’ complaints and has been the primary issue surrounding the mine since May.
Charles’s letter pointed out that violation of the zoning resolution is a misdemeanor and also leaves the violator “subjected to a civil penalty not to exceed Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) for each violation of said Zoning Resolution.”
The letter also notes that each day a violation continues constitutes a separate violation.
“Please allow this letter to serve as notice of Washington County’s intent to pursue all available remedies for the unlawful use of the land,” the letter reads. “This office will provide no further communication of its expectation that you will immediately discontinue the lawful use and cease operations.”
It concluded by directing further communication to Wilkinson, the county attorney.
Preston Holley, whose home is a couple hundred yards from the Bitcoin
mine and within site of it, told News Channel 11 a normal amount of noise from the mine was evident Wednesday night.