The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved regulations Tuesday to limit the size of data centres to 12,500 square feet, a move that will prevent the development of hyperscale facilities in town.
The size limit was based on a survey of large Groton businesses that showed they used small, on-site data centres for data storage and computing needs.
“I believe the largest one is Pfizer and that was about 12,000 square feet, and that was the biggest and the others were less than that,” commission member Susan Sutherland explained.
The new regulation ends the commission’s moratorium on new data centre developments that began in June 2022, after developer NE Edge LLC proposed two 250,000-square-foot, 50-foot tall data centres on acreage south of Interstate 95 near a number of residences.
In the agreement, NE Edge would have paid the town about $3.5 million in lieu of property taxes under a 2021 law – that Quinn lobbied for – intended to create incentives for developers to build data centres in Connecticut.
But later that month, the council voted to end negotiations with NE Edge, citing issues with the speed and procedure of the town’s development process, particularly referring to a proposal by Respler Homes in 2020 to build 931 apartments at the Mystic Oral School that brought heavy pushback from residents.
The town had also signed a five-year agreement in 2021 with Gotspace Data Partners for a potential hyperscale data centre off of Route 117. According to a town memorandum, the commission developed the new regulations to address “a number of concerns that were raised during preliminary discussions” about the project.
The public strongly favoured the regulations at Tuesday’s hearing, commenting that the commission had done “excellent work defending the town” and helped the town “escape serious environmental damage.”
But the hearing turned contentious when Nicholas Fiorillo, CEO of Gotspace Data Partners, asked if the town attorney had advised the commission of his $30 billion lawsuit against Groton and several other entities. He said the town has been named a defendant concerning “its conspiracy to limit the development of data centres.”
Deborah Jones, assistant director of planning for Groton, responded that the town attorney was aware of the litigation and it was not a concern of the commission.
Fiorillo peppered the commission with questions concerning spot zoning, the community host and power agreements, and other issues, but Jones advised the commission not to respond.
Fiorillo was formerly business partners with Quinn at Gotspace until Quinn left in December to form NE Edge LLC. In Fiorillo’s lawsuit, he also accused NE Edge of cyberspying, hacking, loan sharking, and stealing property and assets in an attempt to thwart Gotspace’s plan to develop a New England data corridor.
NE Edge has proposed a 1.5 million-square-foot data centre at Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford and a 980,000-square-foot facility in Bozrah. On its website, Gotspace shows it has data centre sites in Wallingford, Griswold, Norwich, Bozrah and Groton.
Chris Regan, who has worked for NE Edge, told commission members on Tuesday he believed the new regulations were a mistake.
“What you guys are doing with this regulation is eliminating entirely a data centre coming into this town, and that’s the future. They’re going to be required for self-driving vehicles throughout the area. … There has to be a data centre in this area for that to happen,” he said. “The industry wants to come here, so I just think that you are cutting with technology that is going to be in the future.”
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