Sten Spinella, The Day, New London, Conn.
September 19, 2021
Sep. 19—Data centers could soon be coming to Groton, Bozrah and Griswold.
Montville and Norwich, also candidates for data centers, are a bit further away from putting in such facilities.
During this past legislative session, lawmakers passed a measure erasing the property and sales tax burden on data center developers for 20-30 years, depending on the size of the developer's investment. The move is important to eastern Connecticut, a potential landing spot for such facilities, which can help grow a town's grand list.
A qualified data center is defined as a facility that houses networked computer servers in one location, centralizing the storage and dissemination of data.
Gotspace Data Partners LLC, a company based in Groton, has entered into host agreements in Groton, Wallingford, Griswold and Bozrah. Griswold also has adopted the necessary zoning changes. Host agreements with towns and cities require data centers to pay a fee because of the long-term tax abatement created by the state. While critics argue data centers would be paying more if taxed, developers have indicated they won't build at all without favorable taxes.
Groton Town Manager John Burt said town staff members have been meeting and talking "semi-regularly" with Gotspace.
"They have been getting a lot of interest in their sites. The focus of Gotspace right now has been more on working with Groton Utilities to officially submit a request for power," Burt wrote in an email. "My hope is that things will move quickly, but it's always hard to gauge what will happen with large projects."
Gotspace currently pays to have the right to buy the Groton properties. Once the developer is ready, it can trigger the sale.
"My understanding is that they are in the process of officially buying those pieces," Burt added.
The Bozrah Planning & Zoning Commission had been scheduled to meet Wednesday for a public hearing about making a zoning change to allow Gotspace to build on the site. The commission termed it an "application to amend the zoning regulation of the town of Bozrah by adding" a "technology park district" that would establish "a floating zone," in the hearing notice.
Commission Chairman Stephen Seder said that if the public hearing, which he expects to be rescheduled soon, goes well, the commission must decide on how to move forward with zoning.
"We're a small town, we don't have a lot of infrastructure, and we're a fairly conservative town," he said. "We try to balance everything with the town's character. Will it be a good fit? Probably. But there are a lot of questions that we still have. Everything is in the details ... It's dollars, but the dollars do not override the character of the town."
If the commission agrees to change the zoning after the public hearings, then it will "move right forward with a master plan," Seder said.
While Gotspace has expressed interest in a location in Norwich — one such possible location is included on its website — no host agreement has been entered.
Montville has had plans for a data center in place since 2019, when the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a site plan for the first phase of the project. Developer Verde Group LLC had hoped to build two large data storage buildings — at 87,000 and 166,000 square feet, each with an office, electrical room and data hall with computer and networking equipment — on 65 acres, with room for potential expansion on a 300-acre site.
Town Director of Planning Marcia Vlaun said in March the Verde Group still is ready to develop the data center between Route 32 and the Thames River but hasn't taken the next step. But, Joel Greene, who formed Verde Group LLC and was pushing for the data center, died in July, Montville Mayor Ron McDaniel wrote in an email. Greene was being sued for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing and breach of contract, related to the proposed data center in Montville.
"The principals were involved in litigation regarding the property and that has not been resolved and has been put on hold," McDaniel wrote.
He said Montville has permissive zoning in place for a data center, "but no plans have been filed, and they have not approached the town to negotiate a host agreement as they have done in Groton and Wallingford."