Kent Harris

Washington County Commissioner Kent Harris said in August that he felt “hoodwinked” in voting to rezone property that became a bitcoin mine.

Chancellor John Rambo will hear a request from Washington County later this week asking for an injunction against BrightRidge regarding a zoning dispute involving a bitcoin mining operation in Limestone.

Rambo, who declined to issue a restraining order against the public utility on Monday, cited Rule 65.03(1) and ordered a hearing on the matter in Washington County Chancery Court at 9 a.m. Wednesday. In his order, the chancellor wrote he is calling for the hearing “so that plaintiff has the opportunity to notify defendant’s counsel of the request for the restraining order.”

Angela Charles, Washington County’s planning director, is listed as the plaintiff in a motion filed earlier Monday asking the court to issue an injunction against BrightRidge to prevent the energy authority from continuing operations on property it owns at 1444 Bailey Bridge Road that the county says are in violation of its zoning regulations.

Washington County alleges a bitcoin mining operation at the site does not conform with a “public utilities” zoning use permitted for the property under the county’s land use regulations.

Under the county’s zoning code, a public utility is defined as “a facility providing a pubic service which is owned or authorized by a municipal, county, state or federal government in the provision of such services as transportation, water supply, sewerage treatment, electricity, natural gas and telephone, telegraph and microwave transmission.”

At the request of officials from BrightRidge, Washington County commissioners voted in February 2020 to rezone the tract from A-1 general agriculture district to A-3 agriculture/business district. The county says BrightRidge submitted a commercial zoning compliance permit in May 2020 for a “data center” on its newly rezoned property near its Phipps substation. That facility was described as consisting of “15 containers and their associated generators.”

Washington County’s complaint in Chancery Court alleges county commissioners first became aware that BrightRidge was in violation of the permitted zoning use for its Limestone property when residents in the neighborhood appeared during the public comment segment of their monthly meeting to voice their concerns about noise coming from the bitcoin operation.

Commissioners voted in September to ask their legal counsel to send a letter to officials at BrightRidge, informing them they have 30 days to discontinue the current use of their property.

Washington County Attorney Allyson Wilkinson told commissioners in October that Charles had sent such a letter to BrightRidge and had inspected the property on Oct. 20, only to find the cyber-mining operations have not ceased.

The plaintiff also notes in its complaint: “BrightRidge exacerbates the problem by refusing to cease operations upon repeated written and verbal requests and referring Washington County to BrightRidge’s business partner, Red Dog Technologies LLC. Washington County has no relationship to this entity or any other business partner of BrightRidge’s and Tennessee law empowers this honorable court to enter a valid decree settling the rights between Washington County and BrightRidge.”

In asking for injunctive relief on Monday, the county said it would show that as a result of BrightRidge’s conduct, the plaintiff “has immediate and irreparable injury, loss and damage that require immediate review.”

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Press Senior Reporter

Robert Houk has served as a journalist and photographer at the Press since 1987. He is a recipient of the Associated Press Managing Editors Malcom Law Award for investigative reporting.

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