and now an (official) word from east whiteland about data centers…and the media coverage (thus far)

Photos used with permission from Ginny Kerslake

Sorry folks, it has been a busy day. Received official word from East Whiteland regarding the data center of it all. After that I will share the article that prompted this:

In response to recent articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily Local News, where the Township was asked to provide comments and a status update regarding recent data center proposals, below is a statement from East Whiteland Township:

To date, no land development application has been received by the Township and there have been no revisions to the previously approved Zoning Hearing Board application to permit the data center usage at the properties located along the south side of Swedesford Road near the border with West Whiteland Township. 

Also, it is important to note to our residents and businesses that the Board of Supervisors of East Whiteland Township has no interest in entertaining a proposal for a hydrogen power plant within our Township. We are aware of the zoning activities in our neighboring Township and will continue to monitor the situation.

Scott Lambert, Chair of East Whiteland Township Supervisors

~EAST WHITELAND TOWNSHIP 1/19/2023

Philadelphia Inquirer: COMMERCIAL A cleaned-up Superfund site in Chester County could become home to a massive data center
Local residents and environmentalists are concerned about a developer’s plans for a two-million-square-foot data center in East Whiteland Township, Chester County.

by Kevin Riordan
Updated Jan 19, 2023

A Chester County developer is planning to build a data center approaching the size of the retail space at King of Prussia Mall that could consume more power in one location than any other Peco customer.

Charles Lyddane said he hopes to begin construction this year on the two million-square-foot facility on 65 acres of a remediated Superfund sitehe owns in East Whiteland Township.

“This will be a major economic engine for Chester County and for Pennsylvania,” said Lyddane, whose company Green Fig Land LLC is partnering with Fifteen Forty Seven Critical Systems Realty of Matawan, N.J., to develop the East Whiteland site…..East Whiteland approved zoning variances that Lyddane requested for the project in 2021, and he plans to submit a land development plan to the township this spring. If the plan is approved, construction would begin within six to 12 months and be finished by the end of 2024.

Lyddane said strong demand for new data center capacity is expected to continue despite current economic uncertainties.

Nevertheless, he has “put on hold” a proposal to build a 100,000-square-foot data center along with a power-generating facility on 25 acres he owns in West Whiteland Township that are contiguous with his East Whiteland property.

“Our only plan at this time is to build two data center buildings … in East Whiteland Township,” Lyddane said Tuesday….But Loudoun County, Va., home of what’s widely regarded as the greatest concentration of data centers on the planet, last year approved guidelines to limit their growth. Andthe East and West Whiteland proposals have sparked concerns among environmentalists and some residents in northeastern Chester County, where rolling hills, winding roads, and quaint stone buildings belie the sometimes toxic legacy of mining, steelmaking, and other heavy industries that once dotted the landscape……Sometimes called server farms or carrier hotels, data centers are nothing new. But what’s proposed for East Whiteland would be significantly bigger than most….The proposed East Whiteland data center location once was home to a limestone mining and later, lithium ore-processing business called the Foote Mineral Co., which closed in 1991. A Superfund cleanup project there was substantially completed in 2010, although monitoring of several locations on the property is continuing…..In West Whiteland, nearly 250 people have joined a “Protect Exton Park from Power Plant/Data Center Hub” page on Facebook since it was established earlier in this month. The popular recreation area is close to where Lyddane has explored building a second data center and a power plant.

A 700-acre expanse of woodlands, ponds, and open space, Exton Park was established 30 years ago after local residents fought fiercely to prevent construction of a large housing development, said Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, the administrator of the Facebook page.

“The zoning amendment Charlie requested is very open-ended and would open the door to [development of] hyper-scaled data centers in West Whiteland,” said Marcille-Kerslake….As for the future of the West Whitelandproperty, which includes a storm-water management area that would serve the East Whiteland data center, the developer said: “We don’t have a plan yet. We’re not sure if we’re going to do anything there.”

EAST WHITELAND — A 2-million-square-foot data center, at a cost of approximately $6 billion, is planned for the 100-acre former Foote Mineral site. Seventy-five acres sit in East Whiteland and 25 acres are located in West Whiteland Township.

Fifteenfortyseven Critical Systems Realty partnered with Green Fig Land to obtain East Whiteland zoning variance changes that would allow for two separate million-square-foot, two-story structures and microwave towers, near the intersection of Valley Creek Boulevard and Swedesford Road.

Charlie Lyddane, who works with partner Greg Walters, of Green Fig Land, said on Monday that he wants eventually to also build on the adjacent 25-acre property in West Whiteland Township.

The site abuts the heavily used Chester Valley Trail and Exton Park for what Lyddane said would be an “ancillary” use.

Data centers house equipment such as servers, and air conditioning and cooling equipment for storage of large amounts of data. Data centers run the systems that cell phones are connected to and it’s part of the internet. A data center is the building that houses all of that equipment.

Residents rallied to fight some of the uses after West Whiteland had set a January 25 date for a hearing on zoning changes in the existing office/lab district. Those changes would allow for the data center and a power generating facility to help run the data center. PECO has already agreed to supply a large amount of power. Lyddane said it was enough to fully run the East Whiteland facility as planned.

Lyddane pulled the request for a township hearing which was to appear on the agenda of the Jan. 25 meeting.

“There is no plan for a power plant,” Lyddane said, although a zoning ordinance change for such was requested. “There are a number of options for things to do there.

“We want to see what happens with the data centers. Nothing is definite. We don’t have a plan. We are looking at options.

“The only plan at this time is to build two data centers and that’s it. We are nearly through the approval process in East Whiteland.”

Lyddane also said that more than half of the 25-acre West Whiteland tract is being left as open space because it includes existing wetlands.

Any zoning changes would allow for additional data center construction on more than 100 nearby acres in the township that Lyddane said he doesn’t own and is not for sale. Lyddane said it would be possible to operate a green power plant at that location.

West Whiteland resident Ginny Kerslake is strongly opposed to the project that might include a power plant, as was requested and written with the new zoning variance language.

“Power plants, whether gas or hydrogen from methane, emit the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, and methane,” she said.” In addition to this, there are methane emissions all along the route from fracking to the power plants, and impacts to public health and safety, water resources and the environment. No matter how you try to greenwash it, gray or blue hydrogen is not sustainable energy. It’s a false climate solution being pushed by the fossil fuel industry.”

Data centers in New York, Oregon, Hawaii, Wyoming, Wisconsin and two in Illinois are operated by 1547 Critical Systems….. A $50 million cleanup of the Foote Mineral site is completed, according to Lyddane, who said he spent $2 million on sewer improvements and $500,000 for the cleanup of the township sewer treatment plant.

The proposed West Whiteland zoning changes also call for a 60-foot height limit rather than the current limit of 35 feet.

“We are looking for flexibility,” Lyddane said.

The developer said that each of the two floors might measure 20 feet high, with equipment on the roof. He said that the facility would create 50 permanent “very good paying jobs” onsite and about 3,000 jobs during the construction period.

West Whiteland Supervisor Brian Dunn talked about the zoning changes that might lead to a data center and power plant in the township.

“I’m always skeptical about amending zoning ordinances,” Dunn said. “I’ve found through my experience that whenever a zoning ordinance is amended it’s not always what was proposed.

“A lot of times it opens up a can of worms for something worse.”

West Whiteland Supervisor Rajesh Kumbhardare said he wants to see the facts while noting that the site sits far from residences.

“I don’t see any issue with the zoning changes,” he said. “There is no power plant on the books.

.Kerslake argued that the zoning changes suggested for the canceled Jan. 25 meeting clearly stated such.

“Let’s consult the experts,” Kumbhardare said. “Let’s not put the cart before the horse.”

West Whiteland Supervisor Theresa Santalucia preferred to not comment when reached by phone.

Libby Madarasz is running for the seat occupied by Santalucia on the West Whiteland board of supervisors.

“I’ve spent hours this past long weekend speaking with residents in their neighborhoods and out enjoying Exton Park and the Chester Valley Trail,” she said. “There was a resounding objection to these (proposed) changes in the zoning ordinances which would have such an impact to these treasured spaces.

“The prospect of a fracked gas/hydrogen power plant was especially offensive. I truly hope our township supervisors listen to the people and honor their duty to put the desires of the residents first.”

Kerslake: “The developer’s withdrawal of his zoning ordinance amendment is a victory for all those speaking up against this bad plan and a testament to the power of community. The requested change, oddly submitted without plans and impact assessments, was a trojan horse that would have opened the door for a fracked gas power plant in close proximity to neighborhoods and our treasured Exton Park and Chester Valley Trail.

~Daily LOCAL/BILL RETTEW

So to West Whiteland Supervisor Raj Kumbhardare, is a bit of a puzzle here. Supervisor Raj should have more to say more than his evasiveness in The Daily Local News about carts and horse, right? Supervisor Raj as a day job is in database administration so is there anything in this for him? Not being mean but does he care about all of his constituency equally? After all this issue is bigger than computer and database type professionals being excited that the data center is coming, right? And then there is the wondering if he really understands the zoning and how zoning doesn’t exist in a little bubble or vacuum and these changes could potentially have far-reaching changes for the township he is supposed to serve equally to his best efforts so??? I am not saying he’s not a good guy I am asking reasonable questions. I am also wondering how is feeling about carts and horse right now?

And my favorite angry lame duck supervisor is mums the word on this? Why? Rather odd considering….she’s always so pithy, yes?

Anyway, East Whiteland is not being shy about how they seem to be feeling, do they?

Also do not forget this hopeful piece from September, 2022:

Data Center Frontier: With New Incentives, Pennsylvania Makes Pitch for Hyperscale Business
Sept. 15, 2022
With the passage of new tax incentives for data centers in Pennsylvania, developers have announced plans for a hyperscale campus outside Philadelphia that could create 2 million square feet of data center space.
Rich Miller

With the passage of new tax incentives for data centers in Pennsylvania, developers have announced plans for a hyperscale campus outside Philadelphia that could create 2 million square feet of data center space.

The project is a big bet that Pennsylvania can become a destination for cloud campuses for huge Internet companies. The incentives are also being welcomed by existing data center providers, primarily enterprise colocation and interconnection specialists.

Last year, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a package of data center incentives that includes a sales and use tax exemption for the purchase of computer equipment….

Last month data center operator fifteenfortyseven Critical Systems Realty (1547) said it will partner with real estate developer Green Fig Land Company (GFLC), to acquire 100 acres of land in Chester County, Pa.  to build a data center campus with 150 megawatts of capacity. The site plans call for a pair of two-story data centers, each sized at 1 million square feet of space.

“We at Green Fig have spent three years working with the legislature to enact a bill to eliminate the sales tax on data center equipment in Pennsylvania,” said Charles Lyddane, Managing Partner of GFLC. “With access to Tier 1 carriers like Arelion, Lumen, and Windstream, Pennsylvania is the ideal location for an additional data center cluster sitting between markets like NJ/NY and Ashburn.”…If the project succeeds, the Chester County site could be expanded with to support an additional 149 megawatts of power, and up to 5 million SF of space. Green Fig said it is also working on a dedicated, sustainable power generating facility on site.

Tonight class we re-learned a valuable lesson or two:

(1) Sometimes the peasants revolt.

(2) Carts and horses are funny things.

(3) Sometimes municipalities want the public to have actual clarity.

(4) This is an issue that grew legs this week.

(5) Get involved where you live.

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