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Wallingford council to consider rescinding data centers host agreement

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WALLINGFORD — There hasn’t been much activity lately in the way of bringing data centers to the rural east side of town.

Part of the reason is a decision by land use officials in Bozrah last month to reject a proposed change in zoning regulations to create a zone that would allow data centers — a plan requested by Gotspace Data Partners LLC.

Gotspace sought and received a municipal host fee agreement with Wallingford, approved by the Town Council by a vote of 5 to 4 in June.

Since data centers are tax exempt by state statute — Gotspace actually helped create the tax incentives, signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont in March — the host agreement 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.

Wallingford officials took note after the Bozrah Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to deny the request for a zoning change, according to meeting minutes from the Oct. 12 public hearing.

Gotspace respresentatives were not present at the Bozrah PZC meeting, the minutes stated. Thomas Quinn, Gotspace CEO, did not return a request for comment Thursday.

Town Councilor Joe Marrone asked that the council discuss at its upcoming meeting Tuesday whether the town should rescind its host agreement with Gotspace.

Marrone cited the recent action in Bozrah as his reason for requesting the discussion, adding that he felt the council may have been too rushed to approve the local agreement.

He was one of the four council members who voted against approving the host agreement in June, along with Craig Fishbein, Chris Shortell and Jason Zandri.

“The council was really eager to pass something to make the data centers happen,” Marrone said via email Thursday, “and we took the very first offer that came to us, despite some of the
obvious issues, like sound and neighborhood impact … The Town Council never moves fast on anything, and this huge deal was approved in about 38 days.”

To bring data centers to Wallingford, Gotspace also must secure a market-price power supply agreement with the Wallingford Electric Division that describes how the public utility would supply power, and the Wallingford Planning and Zoning Commission must change local zoning regulations to allow data centers.

However, talks stalled after a special Public Utilities Commission meeting in September.

The Planning and Zoning Commission postponed a zoning text amendment public hearing on defining data centers and allowing them as a special permit use from its meeting this month to December.

“We know the agreement that passed the WED was pulled from our agenda,” Marrone said. “Now that we know there is trouble elsewhere, I want the administration to tell us what they knew when they pulled it and see if this is a good fit to move forward.”

Demand for storage

Gotspace, a Groton-based company with its business registration in Boston, is working to build data centers at five locations across Connecticut.

Besides Wallingford and Bozrah, potential locations include Groton, Norwich and Griswold, according to the Gotspace website.

Gotspace has secured host agreements with Groton, Griswold and Bozrah, as well as Wallingford.

Data centers house a network of computers for central storage, management and dissemination of electronic information —- the place where information stored in "the cloud" is actually kept.

The Gotspace data centers would house telecommunications infrastructure and operate 24 hours a day.

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

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, and Gotspace must comply with any rules set forth in the municipal host fee agreement that are stricter than zoning regulations.

Wallingford, Bozrah, Groton and Norwich each have a municipal public electric utility. Although some of Griswold is served by CL&P, the connected borough of Jewett City has a public electric utility that serves Griswold.

Gotspace isn’t the first tech development firm where Quinn has held a leadership role.

Quinn was formerly president and CEO of Verde Group, LLC — another firm that attempted to build large data centers in Connecticut, securing site plan approval in Montville in 2019.

Verde Group and its founder Joel Greene — who died July 24, according to court documents — are named as defendants in two ongoing lawsuits regarding non-payment to contractors and foreclosed land over the Montville project.

It’s unclear whether Quinn was still serving in his Verde Group position when the allegations in the lawsuits would have taken place.

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


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