Buncombe may put temporary block on crypto mines

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners may press pause on any potential cryptocurrency mine development, as outlined in a proposal to be discussed at its regular board meeting Tuesday, April 4.

The board will consider authorizing a public hearing for Tuesday, May 2, on a one-year moratorium on cryptocurrency mines. The move would allow county staff to develop standards for potential crypto mine development to be included in an updated zoning ordinance.

The county has not received any such applications to date but would likely have to permit a mine if one applied under the current zoning ordinance, according to a staff presentation at a Feb. 21 commission briefing.

Cryptocurrency mines — large collections of computer servers that process crypto transactions — often operate in large warehouses or storage facilities and require extensive use of electricity, said Nathan Pennington, Buncombe’s planning director, at the briefing. Commissioner Terri Wells added that she had heard lots of frustration from residents of Cherokee County about excess noise from cooling fans at a mine developed there. Mines also tend to be heavy water consumers and producers of e-waste, she continued.

It’s unclear to what extent mining companies are looking to locate in Buncombe. Crypto mines typically seek out flat, inexpensive land, of which there is little in the county, Pennington said.

In other news

Commissioners will consider a contract with a new auditing firm, moving on from the company that reviewed county finances in the aftermath of fraud by former County Manager Wanda Greene and other county figures.

County staffers have recommended Atlanta-based Mauldin and Jenkins over three other firms that submitted bids, including the previous auditor, Minneapolis-based CliftonLarsonAllen. A presentation available before the meeting cites the firm’s dedicated government audit team and resources, significant compliance audit expertise and regional stable of current clients.

The initial contract is for three years, with the audit for fiscal year 2022-23 costing $185,000. For comparison, Buncombe paid CliftonLarsonAllen $144,000 for the fiscal year 2021-22 audit.

Consent agenda

The consent agenda for the meeting contains seven items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:

  • A report from the county Tax Collector Jennifer Pike detailing current-year collections in personal property, public service, real estate and motor vehicle taxes. As of the end of February, the county had collected more than $234 million of taxes levied for fiscal year 2022-23. The 98.15% collection rate exceeds the 97.83% of levied taxes collected by the same point in the last fiscal year.
  • A contract with Demokur Architects to design a restroom facility at the Buncombe County Sports Park in Enka. The design will cost about $70,000 and take approximately 15 weeks.
  • A resolution to extend a lease with the Buncombe County Board of Education allowing the Reynolds Volunteer Fire Department to use property at AC Reynolds Middle School for $1 per year. The resolution would extend the lease, which currently expires at the end of April, through April 2033.

The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link. Prior to the meeting, the commissioners will hold a 3 p.m. briefing to discuss the local effects of North Carolina’s potential Medicaid expansion and other matters.

In-person public comment will be taken at the start of the regular meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. in room 326 at 200 College St., Asheville; no voicemail or email comments will be permitted. Both the briefing and the regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.

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