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Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay issues stop work order on data centre, company appealing

This data centre has been operating for close on a year without proper permits and the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay recently issued a stop work order.
This data centre has been operating for close on a year without proper permits and the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay recently issued a stop work order. - Evan Careen

Business not licensed and operating in wrong zoning area, deputy mayor says

HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L. — A data centre that was the subject of a flurry of comments on social media over the weekend in Happy Valley-Goose Bay has been issued a stop work order.

The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay was informed Aug. 2 the company is appealing the order.

The appeal will go before the Labrador Regional Appeal Board, which currently does not have any members appointed. A spokesperson for Municipal Affairs told the Labradorian they are in the process of finding new members and once that process is complete and the new board members are trained a schedule of hearings will be set.

Affected parties can appear at the appeal hearing if they wish, according to the Urban and Rural Planning act, the legislation that covers the appeals process. According to Municipal Affairs if a stop work order is issued to a business/individual then all activity must be halted pending the outcome of the appeal.

Concerns

The concerns that were voiced online about the business were around what appeared to be expansion of the centre, and the fact that it is in a residential area.

Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay Deputy Mayor Bert Pomeroy said they have been trying to contact the owner of the business for about eight months without success.

Pomeroy said the business is not licensed by the town and they issued a stop work order to the landlord on July 30.

The owner of the business met with town staff on Aug. 1 to discuss the issue, but since it isn’t in the correct zoning area it will have to cease operating at that location, the Deputy Mayor said. He said since they have not received any notice of the appeal from the appeals board the order currently stands.

“That area is zoned as mixed development and that isn’t a permitted use in that zone,” he said. “We’re not adverse to businesses coming to town, but they need to come and operate above board, in areas where they can operate.”

The land the centre is on is zoned as mixed commercial, but data centres are classified as general industry. The town passed a resolution to change the zoning for data centres in March.

He said the issue with this centre came to a head this week when it was discovered Nalcor was putting more poles up next to the centre. Town staff went and tried to contact the business owner again and then contacted the landowner and issued him the stop work order.

Pomeroy said they aren’t opposed to the business itself, but it has to be permitted and in the right type of zoned area. Data centres have been an issue of concern for the town in the past, mostly due to the amount of power they consume and that most employ very few people. Pomeroy acknowledged this is still an issue for the town, but there isn’t an easy solution.

NL Hydro was planning to upgrade the system in the area this year with a new transmission line from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Muskrat Falls, but it was delayed when a group of municipalities in Labrador wanted more information on the upgrade.

The plan would have been to increase the amount of power available from 77 MW to 104 MW and the concern was that data centres would take all that power immediately.

Mayor Wally Andersen told the Labradorian at the time that the town was concerned that could be an issue for future development.

“We certainly need to have a cap on the amount of power that can be provided,” Pomeroy said. “We don’t have an issue with data centres but it can’t jeopardize the long term economic opportunity in the region.”

He said it is a concern that future upgrades could be needed to accommodate these businesses, the cost of which will be borne by all the ratepayers on the Labrador Interconnected Grid.

Outside of the power issue, he said unlicensed businesses are an issue in the town and they issued a stop work order to another data centre that wasn’t permitted to operate recently as well. Town staff isn’t hard to deal with, Pomeroy said, and would like people to just come in and work with them.

“People need to just come to us and get the permits in place to operate legally,” he said. “It’s not hard or an onerous process, we’re willing to work with people if we can.”

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