Objections from residents didn’t stop the Rosemount City Council from voting unanimously to allow tech giant Meta to move forward with building a new data center in town.
Jimnist, LCC, which is owned by Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram), was given the green light to construct the 750,000 square foot center at a City Council meeting last month.
Residents voiced environmental, health, and privacy concerns while criticizing the lack of transparency around the project at the City Council meeting.
Some of the residents said the data center will be built on land with excessive levels of contaminants and will increase noise levels and electricity usage. But according to the city, contamination in soil samples from the specific parcel where the center will be located did not exceed residential soil standards.
“Although they say noise is not a big concern, people living in these communities who’ve experienced this say there’s a 24/7 low frequency noise that causes anxiety and stress,” one individual told Alpha News.
Furthermore, residents expressed concern about the data center’s water usage.
“We talked about salvaging our water base here for the past five years. We’re on water restriction, but yet we continued to build these communities … I do know Meta, Facebook has had a history of nefarious practices and we really need to look at that,” one resident said, calling for more examination before moving forward.
Residents were also concerned because city officials had previously referred to the project using a secret code name, Project Bigfoot, and shielded the transaction from the public using a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
“I understand this approach may cause confusion and frustration among the public,” Rosemount Mayor Jeff Weisensel wrote to Alpha News in an email. “We addressed this with residents in our quarterly City Winter 2023 newsletter [which included] a detailed explanation of the reasoning including a case study. This information was well received.”
He also wrote it is “common practice” in business and development to use NDAs and code names to “ensure that all parties involved have the freedom to explore potential opportunities without premature disclosure, particularly if multiple sites may be involved or a business [wants] to protect its business strategy, availability of the labor pool, and other market implications against competitors.”
A September filing with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission confirmed that Meta is behind the project.
The $700 million data center will be built on a 280-acre parcel of UMore Park, which is owned by the University of Minnesota. The school’s Board of Regents approved the sale of the parcel last year.
According to a report submitted by Xcel Energy, which will supply electricity for the data center, the project will be used for “collecting, storing, processing, distributing, or allowing access to large amounts of data.”
“Data centers can store and index websites, run email, and instant messaging services, provide cloud storage and applications and enable a host of other capabilities,” the document explains.
During World War II, the federal government used the land now known as UMore Park to build a munitions plant. The University of Minnesota acquired the land at the end of the war.
“We did also conduct environmental site assessments and found the site not to have any recognized environmental conditions that were of concern,” said Trisha Sieh, an engineer with Kimley-Horn, which is an engineering, planning and consulting firm that conducted plan development for Jimnist.
While Sieh said she does not anticipate any environmental problems related to the site, she said they would “work directly” with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency if any issues were discovered.
“Any environmental concerns that may arise are under the purview of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency which will inform the city staff as needed or necessary in accordance with MN state law and work with the land owner to take the appropriate corrective measures,” Weisensel said.
Weisensel said the council is committed to the well-being of Rosemount residents, and the UMore property has been extensively investigated over decades. He said more information for concerned residents is available online.
Sheila Qualls is an award-winning journalist and former civilian editor of an Army newspaper. Prior to joining Alpha News, she was a Christian Marriage and Family columnist at Patheos.com and a personal coach. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, the MOPS blog, Grown and Flown, and The Christian Post. She speaks nationally on issues involving faith and family.