MASSENA — No new cryptocurrency mining operations will be allowed in the town of Massena until next year after the Town Council approved extending the moratorium until Feb. 28.
The extension became official following a public hearing during which one person shared his concerns. The moratorium was set to expire on Nov. 30 unless it was extended.
Sea boxes and trailers were among the concerns when the board placed its first moratorium on any future cryptocurrency mining operations.
“This is an extension of the cryptocurrency as suggested by our town attorney because of the difficulty with coming up with new language for cryptocurrency mining additions as far as the appearance of the building,” Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy said.
During the public hearing, a representative from Black Scheme LLC, a company already established in Massena, shared his concerns with board members. Companies that are already established are grandfathered in under the moratorium.
Black Scheme LLC owns the former Seaway Mini-Mart property and would like to tear down the building that’s on site and build a new structure that would include sea boxes. The representative said that, because the operation is already established, that should also be grandfathered in.
Not so, said town officials, who are crafting a law that will specifically address the shipping containers when it’s finalized so that town properties don’t look run down.
Although the representative said the company could install a fence with a facade around the site to make the site look more aesthetically pleasing, Town Attorney Eric J. Gustafson said the regulations would specify that the sea boxes could not be used in future projects because they’re not compatible with what town officials want to see on properties.
Deputy Town Supervisor Samuel D. Carbone Jr. said the company had made some improvements by cutting trees that were on the property. But, he said, with the location serving as the entryway to Robert Moses State Park campgrounds and other attractions, “certainly something that looks aesthetically pleasing would be beneficial for the community.”
During the 35-minute public hearing, Mr. O’Shaughnessy said any change to what had already been approved for the company would need to go back through the town Planning Board.
“I’m not sure if you are here to expect something from us,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said. “What are you looking for?”
“I would ask you not to place a moratorium on the existing site which has already been approved for this type of site,” the representative said.
“Again, I hate to throw it back on the Planning Board,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said, “but they’re the ones that would make that determination if these changes need to be reviewed or if the site was approved beforehand. I do have to tell you, this is the sort of thing that we’re trying to avoid. We don’t want sea boxes or trailers sitting out on a pad somewhere in the town of Massena.”
He said the concern was the new site plan was “significantly different.”
“It’s not the same as the original site plan that was submitted and approved two years ago,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said. “I think that we’re not going to take any action on this. That’s a Planning Board function. I think you should go in front of the Planning Board.”
The representative said the Planning Board won’t work with the company because of the moratorium.
Councilor Thomas C. Miller said he interpreted the concern as wondering what rules existing businesses would have to follow.
“If we pass a moratorium, is it legal to have an existing business not have to follow the moratorium? I think that is his question,” Mr. Miller said. “If we pass this moratorium, he’s got an existing business. He’s asking, ‘Can he continue this project?’”
“Those who have sea boxes now are grandfathered in. I think that’s the opinion. If there’s not sea boxes now, they wouldn’t be there after the moratorium,” Mr. Carbone said.
Mr. O’Shaughnessy suggested that, although there was a moratorium, the company could begin the paperwork process in anticipation of meeting with the Planning Board after the moratorium is lifted.
“You can apply, get everything ready and moving, and it’s going to take a couple of months. But, you can do all that work now. We have another company that’s doing that — they’ve submitted and they’re working with the Planning Board to get their project up and running,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said. “Then, hopefully when the moratorium will end you’ll have your rules and regulations and you’ll be ready to go.”