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Data centers are the physical facilities where the internet lives. Fundamentally, they consist of networked computer systems used for data storage and processing, along with supporting equipment, such as batteries, back-up power generators, and cooling devices. And an emerging segment of the data center market consists of facilities dedicated in whole or part to "mining" cryptocurrency.
From the exterior, data centers and cryptocurrency mining facilities may be physically indistinguishable from many commercial or light industrial uses. However, the operational characteristics of these facilities are typically quite distinct from those of surrounding land uses. From a planning and zoning perspective, the most noteworthy characteristics relate to their electricity and water use, noise production, enhanced safety and security needs, and low employment densities.
This issue of Zoning Practice explores why cities, towns, and counties may wish to define and regulate data centers and cryptocurrency mining as distinct uses in their zoning codes and provides a summary of contemporary approaches. It begins with a brief overview of the factors that drive demand for data centers or cryptocurrency mines in particular locations before examining the key planning issues that may merit special attention through zoning and posing a series of questions to guide code drafting. The article concludes with short profiles of local zoning approaches that may serve as models for others.
About the Author
David Morley, AICP
David Morley, AICP, is a Research Program and QA Manager at the American Planning Association in Chicago, where he manages and contributes to sponsored research projects; manages the development of the Research KnowledgeBase; develops, organizes, and participates in educational sessions and workshops; and writes for APA publications. Mr. Morley also edits Zoning Practice.