The following text was sent out via email on September 22, 2023. Sign up for PEC email alerts →
Thank you to all who came to speak out against Copper Ridge at the Sept. 12 public hearing. Despite the disappointing outcome, your participation was a great showing of community engagement and democracy in action.
The Culpeper Town Council voted unanimously (with one absence and one abstention) to approve the highly speculative Copper Ridge data center rezoning.
Many people spoke at the hearing or wrote to the Town Council, including veterans who expressed concerns about the industrialization of a sacred space, and homeowners from the adjacent Mountain Brook Estates neighborhood who worried about the impact 2.2 million square feet of data centers will have on their quality of life.
Unfortunately, this past Tuesday’s outcome is a continuation of the trend we have witnessed in Warrenton, as well as Orange and Prince William counties. Elected officials have been more than willing to gamble on the potential tax revenue of data center proposals, even as onsite and cumulative impacts become more clear.
As more and more data centers are built in communities like Loudoun and Prince William, people are being faced with the realities of noise pollution, new transmission lines, increased water consumption, the industrialization of communities, rising land prices, and impacts to parks, trails, and cultural and historic resources. Culpeper has built a community and economy around its agriculture and small-town charm. If the current trend of approving more industrial data center space continues, that could change.
Another one? Already, a new Culpeper data center is on the horizon.
Cielo Digital Infrastructure, Inc. is proposing a 1.4 million-gross-square-foot, 300-megawatt data center campus on Nalles Mill Rd., just east of Town in Culpeper County.
This past Wednesday, the Culpeper County Planning Commission held a hearing on this proposal and ultimately decided to table the application for 60 days, so that additional information could be obtained. But, Cielo will return to the County Planning Commission at its regularly scheduled November meeting.
The amount of speculative rezoning for data centers that has occurred in the past few years is deeply concerning; with the Town Council’s approval of Copper Ridge, Culpeper has so far approved over 7.5 million square feet of data centers in just five years, none of which have been built yet. Equally concerning is that we are seeing similar applications and approvals throughout our nine-county service area and beyond, without consideration for the cumulative impacts to Virginia’s electric grid or water resources.
A Step in the Right Direction
In a positive change of direction, the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors is considering shrinking the area of land covered by Technology Zones – designated areas where businesses, such as data centers, can receive certain tax incentives. The proposed changes would remove these tax incentives from areas near Fleetwood Farm in Elkwood, which will be one of the focal points of the new State Park at Culpeper Battlefields and parcels adjacent to residential areas, among others. However, even with the reduced footprint, Culpeper’s Technology Zones still incentivize data center develpment on several hundred acres of land east of town, which could amount to millions more square feet of data center buildings and hundreds more megawatts of energy demand.
We know from Dominion’s recent presentation to the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors that the continued approval of more data centers in Culpeper will likely require new or upgraded transmission lines. In fact, the SCC just approved a new $63.1 million high-voltage transmission line in Culpeper to handle some of the industry’s requested increase in electricity use — and this does not account for the recently approved Copper Ridge (estimated at 600MW) or the proposed Cielo data center campuses (300MW), which may require a future transmission upgrade in the Stevensburg area.
For these reasons, we are requesting that the Board remove ALL PARCELS in the Technology Zone not currently approved for industrial use, including those next to Town. Given that Culpeper will already need new transmission infrastructure to accommodate currently approved data centers, the County must stop incentivizing this industry. If you agree with us that enough is enough, contact your County Supervisor.
Elected officials need to hear from residents who are concerned about the individual impacts of data centers as well as the cumulative impact of this rampant speculative rezoning.
Please email the Town Council and Board of Supervisors (firstname.lastname@example.org) and make sure you are signed up for our email alerts as these proposals move forward. Additionally, general and municipal elections are happening on November 7, 2023 – including in the state General Assembly and a seat on the Town Council. We encourage you to ask candidates what their stance is on data centers and inform them of your concerns.
Culpeper Land Use Representative
540-347-2334, ext. 7045