To the editor: I am compelled to express my views on the passage of Amended CHR 3-2020.
Once again, the Kent County Commissioners failed to “get it right.” Favorably, the Agricultural District was removed, however the Village District remained. Getting it right would have removed the Village District and required updating the Land Use Ordinance with safeguards to protect the community and environment before welcoming Data Processing Centers to the county.
What does this mean for us?
Data Processing Centers are “special needs buildings” with complex building systems that have negatively impacted many communities nationwide. Specific restrictions and design standards are needed in the Land Use Ordinance to ensure they are “good neighbors” to preserve our investments and quality of life.
The amended bill relies upon existing design standards in the ordinance as safeguards. Per my review, these design standards are predominantly inadequate and lacking to properly regulate a Data Processing Center. The problem is that they were written for conventional buildings and not for a highly complex and specialized building type.
Data Processing Centers are classified by Tiers, I-V, with the higher the tier, the larger the size, more resource demands and increased potential for impacts.
Both Amended CHR 3-2020 and the ordinance make no reference to Data Center Tiers, let alone restricting their placement in the county. Currently, any tier center can be located in any of the permitted districts and without adequate safeguards.
The absence of public discussion by the commissioners which would have conveyed an understanding of what a data center operation entails, their impacts, the tier types and how to address probable expansion, strongly suggests placing tax revenue over the public welfare, or naïveté.
How can the planning staff now effectively evaluate an application? Why weren’t the safeguards first placed in the Land Use Ordinance and how was this fundamental duty overlooked by our leadership and the professionals?
What this means for us is that the door is now wide open to savvy tech investors and developers to capitalize their investment at the expense of our investments and quality of life. But can this debacle be corrected to assure Kent County’s future?
The answer is “yes” with a moratorium on accepting applications for Data Processing Centers until the Land Use Ordinance has been appropriately revised with public input, thoughtful leadership, responsible planning and reflection of the Comprehensive Plan.