Johnson City pulls cryptocurrency mine proposal from planning agenda

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WCYB) — Johnson City’s planning commission was set to host a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposal that would allow cryptocurrency mines in some parts of the city, but that hearing was pulled from the agenda late Monday afternoon.

The proposal would allow data centers, including cryptocurrency mines, in the Heavy Industrial and the yet to be created Business Park zoning districts.

The idea is piquing the interest of residents in rural Washington County, Tennessee, who’ve been hearing the fan noise coming from a cryptocurrency mine in their neighborhood for three years. The county settled a lawsuit with mine owner Red Dog Technologies and its landlord BrightRidge that requires the mine to move by 2026.

“I was somewhat surprised because they should know with the research that we did the lack of any benefits of having a Bitcoin mine,” Gilliam said about Johnson City’s proposal.

A city spokesperson said no one would be available for an interview until Tuesday morning, but Will Righter, director of planning and development services said in a statement to News 5 that the proposal comes because “the current zoning code does not address data centers.”

“These sites would be subject to the City’s noise ordinance as well,” Righter said. “The proposed amendment would eliminate ambiguity in the code and would ensure that such centers operate only in the appropriate district.”

The mines are groups of computer servers running complex calculations to verify cryptocurrency transactions and create more of the currency.

Residents living near the mine in Washington County complained about the noise from the fans keeping those servers cool and the electricity use.

“The noise problem, the carbon footprint, a variety of things that cause our concern, the possibility of brownouts, blackouts, especially during the extreme usage on hot summer days,” Gilliam said.

Johnson City’s proposal includes limits to the amount of noise a data center could create.

News 5 reached out to Red Dog Technologies and parent company GRIID Infrastructure to ask about the progress toward moving from its current location and if the company plans to move into Johnson City.

A spokesperson said in a statement: “GRIID Infrastructure and Red Dog Technologies are committed to the terms of the negotiated settlement with Brightridge and Washington County. We are exploring several options to relocate the Limestone facility, as agreed upon in the settlement. It is premature to identify any specific location at this time.”