council cancelled

Opponents of a proposed business that supports cryptocurrency mining gathered outside Greenville City Hall on Thursday even though the City Council meeting where the issued was scheduled to be discussed was canceled.

Protests over a proposed rule change that would allow crypto mining operations in the city still happened on Thursday despite the Greenville City Council meeting being canceled earlier in the day.

A city news release said the meeting was canceled “in an effort to mitigate current and the potential for future COVID-19 cases in the community.”

Councilman Rick Smiley said some council members and scheduled presenters reported they had tested positive for COVID or had COVID-like symptoms.

“The mayor called me to tell me what he intended to do. I told him that it was a situation with no good answers,” Smiley said. “Postponing the meeting is unusual, it’s unfortunate, it’s maybe even extreme, but it’s still the right call.”

About 30 protesters outside city hall chanted and waved signs at passing cars even though no council members and few city staff were in the building.

“We are here because we want our voices to be heard,” said Jill Twark, chairwoman of the Friends of Greenville Greenways. “We had already planned to come here for the demonstration and thought it would be a good idea to keep this demonstration so the council sees we care about this issue.”

Twork worries that if the rule changes are permitted, the sound from the equipment that conducts large scale data processing will affect greenway users.

“If this facility is built anywhere near River Park North people will hear it there,” Twark said. She also is concerned about the excessive use of energy during a climate crisis.

The rule changes would allow businesses that undertake high performance data processing that powers cryptocurrency mining, blockchain and similar operations to build modular facilities made up of containers filled with computers that are cooled with multiple fans.

The council will meet remotely via Zoom on Jan. 24 and act on all items that were on Thursday’s agenda, Mayor P.J. Connelly said, including the rule change.

“I was hopeful we would have the meeting tonight but out of an abundance of precaution we decided to postpone it so everybody could participate,” Connelly said.

Greenville City Council resumed in-person meetings in August after holding virtual sessions for more than a year. . The Jan. 24 meeting will be the first virtual session since June.

Connelly made the decision to cancel the meeting after talking with staff and council members.

“COVID is running rampant through the community right now and there are cases running through their personal lives and we want to be respectful of them and keep everybody safe,” Connelly said.

Switching the meeting to a remote format means that opponents of the request to change the city code to establish “Modular data processing facility” and “data processing center” as two separate uses and to set associated standards and zoning districts, will not be able to appear before the council as a group.

“I would like to have (the public hearings) in person,” Connelly said. “That is why we intended on having the city council meetings in person because it’s important to have citizens come to a city council meeting to express themselves.”

The virtual meeting will allow residents to speak on the issue and allow the council to conduct city business without the risk of additional delays, Connelly said. He hopes everyone with an interest in items on the agenda will use the next 11 days to sign up to speak during the Jan. 24 meeting.

“Listening to everybody’s voice is extremely important and as elected officials we want to make sure we hear everyone’s voice in our community,” he said.

Protesters on Thursday said they want council to ask tough questions about the resources needed to operate data processing centers that support crypto currency mining.

“None of our concerns are being answered or addressed. Rather, the goalposts are shifting,” said Molly Holdeman. “We believe the Greenville ENC Alliance, (Greenville Utilities Commission) and the City of Greenville have not done their due diligence on what the impact of crypto mining will be on Pitt county. If they did, they would see it’s absolutely wrong,” she said.

Minnesota-based Compute North attempted to build such a facility near Belvoir Elementary School but withdrew after a contentious public hearing before the Pitt County Board of Commissioners. Compute North confirmed it is working with the Greenville Utilities Commission and a local economic development organization to locate a facility near Greenville.

Contact Ginger Livingston at or 252-329-9570.