County to ask bitcoin operation to comply with zoning code

Monday’s vote by the Washington County Commission saw a request from a Limestone-based bitcoin mining company to conform to the appropriate zoning use or face potential litigation.

The commissioners ordered the county attorney to inform Red Dog Technologies, as well as the county planning director, that Red Dog Technologies’ cyber-mining operations are not in compliance with the zoning approved by BrightRidge last year.

“Let’s get to the root problem,” Commissioner Bryan Davenport said to his colleagues when he made the motion to take action. “Our attorney should write them a letter. It’s out of compliance. It is out of compliance.

After hearing complaints from residents of Limestone about the noise from the cooling fans and computers used in bitcoin mining, the commission started to address the issue in July.

Allyson Wilkinson, Washington County Attorney, stated to commissioners that the bitcoin mining operation isn’t being operated as a public service and is therefore not in compliance with the approved zoning. She suggested that the county and owners of adjacent properties could seek a court order as a legal remedy.

Red Dog representative Todd Napier stated earlier that the company had spent $500,000 to reduce noise levels at the property. This includes noise dampening louvers being installed near equipment and the construction of a 15-foot wall surrounding the facility.

Napier stated that decibel levels have fallen by almost 50% at the bitcoin mining site.

Commissioner Ken Huffine stated that he spoke to residents living nearby and they do not believe the problems are solved.

Monday, in other business

* The county and Jonesborough signed a lease-to-own agreement in 2019. These agreements were to construct a new K-8 school for $32.75 million. Washington County officials and county Board of Education members were informed earlier this month that the project would now cost $10M more than initially estimated.

Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest stated that construction costs and a lack of building materials have pushed up the project’s cost to $42,750,000. The amended agreement provides that the county will contribute an additional $464,050 annually to pay the $10 million extra over the next 30 year.

* The Commissioners accepted Sheriff Ed Graybeal’s resignation and began the process of naming an interim Sheriff to serve Graybeal’s term, until the voters vote on Aug. 4, 2022 to elect a new sheriff.

The Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission will verify the credentials of candidates for interim sheriff. The position will be filled by the board in November.

* The Jonesborough commissioners approved an interlocal agreement to establish a seven-member work crew. Officials said the plan would speed up construction and lower costs for county waterline projects within the town’s service region.

Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act will provide $425,000 to pay salaries and outfit the crew. Jonesborough officials will supervise the waterline crew.

* The commissioners approved $4.5 million in capital education funds to upgrade the football stadiums at Daniel Boone high schools and David Crockett. The county’s two high school will have synthetic turf installed and the home-side bleachers will be replaced.