The Chaska City Council has approved preliminary plans to build four additional data centers just north of the suburb’s small industrial park, which has become a draw for corporations seeking open land to store mountains of sensitive information.

Dallas-based Stream Data Centers proposed four separate buildings along a 66-acre plot that’s zoned for rural farmland. The development would join four other data centers in the nearby West Creek Corporate Center, including a U.S. Bank data complex that will employ 18 workers when it’s completed next spring and two other buildings by Stream Data Centers.

UnitedHealth Group also has a 251,000-square-foot data center in the same business park.

The new plans call for berms around the site and a buffer zone to help maintain natural views for residents in the Clover Ridge neighborhood, said City Planner Liz Hanson. Developers also stressed that the secured facilities would require 24-hour security, with controlled gate access, to protect valuable data.

Councilman Jay Rohe wondered aloud if Chaska was tethering itself to only one type of industry by approving so many data centers. In response, City Administrator Matt Podhradsky reminded staffers that the enterprises create a tax base and significantly benefit electric utilities.

“For an industrial purpose next to a neighborhood, you couldn’t get a better user,” Podhradsky said. “More traditional industrial businesses [are] busy and noisy. These are very low-impact for neighbors next to them.”

The motion to rezone the plot for industrial use and approve the site plan passed 4-1, on the condition that Stream officials address concerns related to lighting and berms. Rohe cast the dissenting vote, saying he didn’t believe the terms were strong enough.

Final project approval will come only after Stream Data Center officials hold a neighborhood meeting to discuss mitigation efforts to alleviate community impact. Residents are welcome to attend a forum with representatives at 6 p.m. Tuesday in City Council chambers.

The developers’ first priority will be to build a 130,000-square-foot facility on the west side of the property. Future structures will be built based on demand for data centers, said Stream vice president Robert Fulford.

During last week’s council meeting, Fulford told councilors that some competitors thought they were crazy for expanding their operation in Minnesota.

“We were pioneers in the Twin Cities area,” Fulford said. “This has turned out to be, hands down, our best site selection and place to do business.”