First look at Wallingford’s proposed zoning reg changes to allow data centers

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WALLINGFORD — Town officials are working on the last couple of pieces needed to bring data centers to town, including a change in local zoning regulations.

Gotspace Data Partners LLC, a Groton-based company with its business registration in Boston, wants to bring data centers to the more rural east side of town.

Data centers house a network of computers for central storage, management and dissemination of electronic information.

Town Economic Development Specialist Tim Ryan said earlier this week that the process of bringing data centers to Wallingford has three key elements.

The first step is finished. The municipal host fee agreement, approved by the Town Council in June, lays out the terms of the annual payment-in-lieu-of-taxes to the town, which could be as high as $1.5 million per building.

The other two elements are an agreement with the Wallingford Electric Division and a change in town zoning regulations to allow data centers in the Industrial Expansion (IX) and Interchange District (I-5) zones.

Public Utilities Director Rick Hendershot did not return calls for comment this week on what the agreement with the Electric Division contains, or if it needs to be voted on by the Public Utilities Commission.

The current zoning regulations don’t mention data centers, so language must been added to define a data center and allow them as a use.

Ryan said both of these pieces may be completed next month at the earliest. After that, it’s up to Gotspace, as the broker, to find developers for the data centers.

“They’re actively talking now,” Ryan said, “but obviously, they are not going to finalize a purchase on any of the property until these other two things are done.”

Zoning change

Kevin Pagini, Wallingford’s town planner, said Friday that the information on the proposed regulation changes regarding data centers is part of a larger update to town’s zoning regulations.

He said that the Planning and Zoning Commission won’t discuss the proposed changes publicly until members hold a workshop.

The updated regulations would define a data center as a building or premises primarily occupied by computers, servers or telecommunications equipment where electronic information is processed, transferred or stored.

Data centers would be allowed by special permit in the IX and I-5 zones.

Parking requirements would be one parking space for each employee at peak shift.

Requirements to acquire a special permit include a sound and vibration impact analysis, paid for by the applicant.

The peer reviewed study would contain detailed information on sound and vibration levels for all activity, equipment and machinery, as well as what measures would be necessary to mitigate noise and vibration.

The goal is to ensure that neither the noise nor the vibration levels would adversely affect the neighboring community.

There are other requirements to address quality of life in any surrounding residential areas.

Any mechanical equipment not inside the principal buildings must be screened by a visually solid fence, wall or panel.

The setback requirement against any border with a residential property or zone would be 150 yards, and include a 100-foot landscaped or natural open space buffer with an earthen berm at least 6 feet tall.

Evergreen or native trees must be planted every 10 linear feet along the outside of the edge of the berm to provide extra screening.

All substations would be screened with fencing and evergreen trees not taller than 10 feet.

The zoning regulation changes would mean data centers are an allowed use, but the town’s land use commissions — Inland Wetlands and Planning and Zoning — would still need to sign off on any development plans.

Gotspace is considering two potential data center campuses in Wallingford, consisting of cobbled-together parcels of undeveloped land and farmland with various owners.

One property is 205 acres located behind North Farms Road, and one is 138 acres near Northrop Road. A site off Barnes Road was removed from consideration by a council vote.

LTakores@record-journal.com203-317-2212Twitter: @LCTakores

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