Buncombe sets hearing to block crypto mines

CRYPT-NO CURRENCY The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted at its regular meeting April 4 to schedule a public hearing on a one-year moratorium on cryptocurrency mine development. Photo courtesy of Buncombe County.

Complaints from Cherokee County have inspired Buncombe officials to consider a one-year moratorium on cryptocurrency mine development while they consider further regulation — or prohibition — of the land use.

At its regular meeting April 4, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to set a public hearing on the moratorium for Tuesday, May 2. (Board chair Brownie Newman and Commissioner Amanda Edwards were not present.) If approved, the moratorium would last until next May so county staff can develop permanent regulation of cryptocurrency mining to be included in a future zoning ordinance.

Cherokee County is now home to at least three such mines, banks of computers that solve the complex math underlying cryptocurrency transactions in exchange for cryptocurrency itself. Those electronics create a lot of heat and must be cooled, often by noisy fan systems, which has led to community complaints.

According to reporting from the USA Today, residents of the Cherokee County town of Murphy say one mine has fans so loud that it has significantly lowered their quality of life. Buncombe County Commissioner Terri Wells said she became aware of Murphy’s issues and brought the crypto mine considerations to county staff. She has also expressed concerns over crypto mining’s electricity use, water demands and generation of electronic waste.

Cryptocurrency mining is not specifically defined in the county’s current zoning, Nathan Pennington, Buncombe’s planning director, told commissioners at the April 4 meeting. He said the moratorium will allow the county to complete its comprehensive plan and develop new standards for intensive land uses that may pose harm to the natural environment, including crypto mining. It’s unclear to what extent mining companies are looking to locate in Buncombe, he added, since they typically seek out flat, inexpensive land, of which the county has little.

Meanwhile, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners is considering adoption of a noise ordinance because of the roar of crypto mine fans, according to minutes from a January 23 meeting. Commissioners there have also presented state legislators with a resolution requesting a ban on cryptocurrency mines.

In other news

Buncombe County may be able to acquire 342 acres on Spivey Mountain in the Deaverview community for a county park, if officials agree to partner with the nonprofit Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.

The property, located about 5 miles from downtown Asheville, was purchased in March for about $7.3 million by Deaverview Mountain LLC, a Raleigh-based legal entity. According to an April 4 briefing presentation by Allison Dains, Buncombe’s parks and recreation director, the owner is “a conservation-minded individual” who has given SAHC a three-year option to buy the property and donate it to the county as a park.

“This is a place that we have an opportunity to preserve for wildlife [and] scenic beauty, but perhaps more importantly, it’s a place people can get to. It’s a terrific opportunity.” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s executive director.

The total cost of the land acquisition is estimated at nearly $8.9 million. SAHC has applied for roughly $4.4 million in federal grant funding, which if approved would leave about $4.5 million for the county or other funders to contribute. If the county does acquire the land, there would be an opportunity to build a parking lot, restrooms, educational kiosks and multimodal trails, Dains said, with construction potentially starting in 2027.

Commissioner Al Whitesides expressed concern about the price tag on the property.

“As a taxpayer, what we’re getting into, this is something Buncombe County hasn’t done before. Would it be cheaper if we ask the state to pitch in?” Whitesides asked. “This is great, and it’ll be great for us, but I hope we realize what we’re picking up here. It’s not going to be cheap.”

Jay Leutze, senior adviser to the SAHC board, said North Carolina officials recommended SAHC pursue a county park, noting that the state is already working on establishing Pisgah View State Park in the western part of Buncombe County. Silverstein added that the SAHC will seek as much additional funding as possible from outside sources during the three-year timeline set by the new property owner.

Wells said she’s most excited about the property because of its proximity to Asheville.

“This mountain forest has tremendous potential to provide our community with educational and recreational opportunities, and I especially love that, with public access, anyone will be able to enjoy the best view in Asheville,” she said.


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