PLATTSBURGH — News on local cryptocurrency mining has been quiet, but residents near Power Dam Way said they can’t say the same for the noise level.
The City of Plattsburgh roadway connects to Main Mill Street and is home to Imperial Industrial Park — a more than 500,000-square-foot facility that once housed Imperial Paper Mill.
Some businesses now operate within those walls, including data hosting service Zafra LLC.
Charles “Chuck” Foell and wife Susan Quinn live just across the Saranac River from the operation and said noise generated at that facility has disturbed the peace.
“I used to really enjoy sitting in the summertime and having the windows open,” Foell said. “I could hear the water falling from the dam.”
But, depending on the day and wind direction, the city resident said, operations at the former Paper Mill have gotten in the way.
“This is a grinding, penetrating sound that goes through windows,” he said. “This noise just goes right over the sound of the dam.”
A BAD TASTE
It was in 2017 that, due to low electric costs, cryptocurrency mining took off in the City of Plattsburgh.
But the virtual mining industry slowed here when city officials implemented an 18-month moratorium, or pause on any new and/or expanded operations.
That move came after miners tipped the city over its energy cap and upped electric bills for city residents.
Since, the miners left a bad taste in the mouths of locals, but an expensive electric bill was only part of the issue.
The operations also emit high levels of heat and the fans used to cool the systems are notoriously noisy.
In response, the city has now passed a cryptocurrency-specific zoning law, a revamped noise ordinance and lifted the ban.
‘DISRUPTED OUR QUIET’
The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals recently approved Zafra LLC for a special-use permit to expand its service from one side of Imperial Industrial Park to the other.
CEO Ryan Brienza said his business houses and maintains servers for various forms of data processing, like cryptocurrency mining and cloud computing.
The expansion, Brienza said, would make way for future clients.
At the Monday night Zoning Board meeting, just under 10 residents spoke in opposition to such an expansion with most concerns related to high noise level.
Chair Ronald Nolland said the board was also presented with some 20 identical letters from residents of the nearby Adirondack Lane.
“We object to the granting of this request,” he read from one letter. “As taxpayers living in a residential zone, the current level of noise generated by the applicant has disrupted our quiet neighborhood, negatively impacted our sleep and quality of life.
“Any expansion would increase this disruption to our properties and potentially serve to decrease our property values.”
Brienza and father, Greg, said the loud noises that have induced the complaints are from a different Imperial Park operation.
“There’s another data center,” Greg said, adding that the noise was from its large fans.
“Most of these operations try to do the least cost method of cooling,” he said. “It ends up being a fan.
“There are methods of making those quieter, but the most quiet way of doing it is liquid cooling.”
That system, Brienza said, would use water and quiet, low-speed fans to bring systems down to an acceptable temperature.
While Zafra does use fans now, the father-son duo said they lead down an alleyway, making little noise.
“We have seen what the other companies have done and the problems with their fans and that whole system,” Brienza said.
“That’s why we’re going forward with our liquid-cooling, silent system."
Residents in attendance wanted assurance that Zafra LLC would not disobey the city’s noise law, but Nolland said that was out of the Zoning Board’s hands.
“Enforcement is not our jurisdiction,” he said. “The noise ordinance is enforced by the building inspector and the police department.”
Board Member Kathleen Insley agreed, explaining the board’s duty to ensure the business was in line with special-use permit guidelines only.
“It’s flattering that people think we have that amount of power to enforce and to look into every nook and cranny of what we’re asked to do, but there are other agencies and departments in the city," she said.
“It takes a whole city set of offices to allow this project to happen. We do our part and everybody else does theirs.”
And, she added, there are avenues for complaints.
“You have a procedure to follow to enforce your rights,” she said.
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