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County Council OKs rezoning for data center on Granger farmland

An unidentified company wants to rezone 900 acres of farmland northwest of Bittersweet and Cleveland roads to build a data center that would employ about 300 people.
WVPE/Jeff Parrott
The St. Joseph County Council voted 6-3 Tuesday night to approve an unidentified company's request to rezone 900 acres of farmland northwest of Bittersweet and Cleveland roads to build a data center that would employ about 1,000 people.

Despite heated opposition from Granger residents, the St. Joseph County Council Tuesday night approved a rezoning needed to build a new data center on farmland.

On a 6-3 vote after more than three hours of debate, the council approved an unidentified company’s request to rezone 900 acres west of Bittersweet and Cleveland roads from agricultural to light industrial. The company plans to build a data center on the site’s northeast corner, where Bittersweet crosses over the Toll Road.

The project would create about 1,000 full-time jobs. Amazon Web Services also is building a data center near New Carlisle.

Data centers manage digital cloud space for everything from our social media apps to the ongoing explosion in artificial intelligence. But opponents voiced fears the project would worsen traffic, create noise, draw down the region’s aquifer, increase their electric bills, and more. When the developer’s consultants, Mike Danch and Angela Smith, had answers for those concerns, opponents more broadly bemoaned the loss of the area’s rural feel.

"The elephant in the room is the invasion of the Granger community by a large industrial complex that will eventually become obsolete. All industry do," said Pete Colan, who owns the building that houses Spin Zone Cycling Outfitters on Bittersweet in Granger, a mile north of the site.

Council members Amy Drake, Randall Figg and Mark Root, all Republicans, voted against the rezoning. Root said the developer didn’t communicate enough with opponents.

Drake started the meeting by making a motion to send the bill back to committee, which would have delayed it for 30 days. Drake said it was clear from a meeting a week ago at St. Pius Church that opponents wanted more time to have their questions answered and concerns addressed.

Council member Joe Thomas also said he didn’t think 30 days was too long for the company to wait for such a big project.

But Danch said his client told him they’d take the project elsewhere if it didn’t receive a vote Tuesday night. Drake’s motion to delay failed on a 5-4 vote.

Parrott, a longtime public radio fan, comes to WVPE with about 25 years of journalism experience at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan, including 13 years at The South Bend Tribune. He and Kristi live in Granger and have two children currently attending Indiana University in Bloomington. In his free time he enjoys fixing up their home, following his favorite college and professional sports teams, and watching TV (yes that's an acceptable hobby).