Perry residents voice opinions on proposed data center

PERRY TOWNSHIP — The discussion was lengthy and passionate as Perry Township residents gathered Tuesday evening at the township administration building on Breese Road to voice their opinions on a proposed data center during the township trustees’ regular meeting.

The meeting room was full to the point of people standing along the walls wanting to know more or to voice their opinions in favor or against the proposed 350-acre development in the vicinity of state Route 65 between Breese and Hume Roads. The area is currently zoned for industrial use, but to bring in a data center, the zoning language would first have to be amended to explicitly include the term “data center.”

Prior to the public comment period, Trustee Larry Sidener pointed out that earlier in the meeting, two members of the township’s zoning board submitted resignation letters, just one example of the deepening lines of division becoming more evident in the township concerning this potential development.

“I know there are two sides out there, and I’m trying to do my best to work with each other, but I’ve come to hate politics,” he said. “I receive calls, some not very nice. (There have been) many phone calls, not only from some of these people out here but also some people outside Perry Township. As I’m looking at this, this is mainly a Perry Township zoning problem, and I don’t like outside influences, and there’s been way too much outside influence.”

As comments began, several residents voiced disapproval for the proposal, with many saying they owned properties near where the development would take place.

“I researched, and data centers are loud and noisy,” Michele Kohlhorst said. “It’s going to be affecting everybody around this, I can tell you that.”

Resident Steve Hunt added, “We do have a beautiful rural life that was described by so many, and we chose to live here vs. the more-developed Lima. There are industrial parks. There are other areas. There are areas that you could consider that would be better used for something like that and not ruin the rural living aspect.”

Other concerns voiced at the meeting centered on questions surrounding the company behind the data center, the identity of which has yet to be officially revealed, and whether it is based in the U.S. or in another nation, potentially an economic and geopolitical rival such as China. Others were concerned that any potential tax revenue windfall for the township would be undercut by whatever abatement would be negotiated to help encourage the company to commit to this project.

Other comments were voiced in favor of the project. Perry Superintendent Kelly Schooler pointed to the benefits the school district could reap with the township’s tax base enlarged with the new data center.

“Reading the paper Sunday, $750,000 (in potential annual tax revenue not counting any abatements) is a lot of money that could be coming into the township, and $2.4 million is a lot of money that could be going to the schools,” Mike Reynolds said. “If that kind of money comes in, you’re not going to be hitting us to raise our taxes as much. So I think it would stand to benefit everyone in this room if we got more tax money coming in from a deal like this because this would be the biggest thing in Perry Township.”

Dr. Gregory Parranto said, “The bigger the tax base is, the lower the mill rate needs to be to generate the funds to do all the things that we like to have done, like schools and fires and police and all that stuff. Industrial land is taxed at a higher percentage of its value than our farms or our homes. So the more of that kind of stuff that gets taken out of proposed land and developed for industrial, the more tax base you’re going to get and the less likely it is that they’re going to come to us and ask for an increased tax levy.”

The township’s zoning board will meet at 6:30 p.m. June 27 at the township administration building to consider developing a resolution to amend the zoning language for industrial zoning. The public can attend the meeting to observe, but there will be no public comment period.