Update on Data Centers in Culpeper and Invite to Upcoming Rooftop Solar Lecture

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aerial photo of fields, trees and large pond with mountains and sunset in background
Rural Brandy Station in Culpeper, possible future home of the XX Tech Park. Photo by Hugh Kenny/PEC

Dear Supporter,

It’s been a whirlwind spring in Culpeper, and I’m writing today to share some good news, some hopeful developments in our continued fight against the relentless industrialization of Culpeper by the data center industry, and an invitation to our ongoing lecture series at the Culpeper County Library.

Further in this email, you’ll find more details on the following: the Culpeper Battlefields State Park opening; the County Planning Commission’s recommendation of denial for the XX Tech Park in Brandy Station; the Board of Supervisors’ latest action on the proposed Keyser Farm data center campus; and an unexpected development in our continued fight against the Copper Ridge data center campus in the Town of Culpeper.

But first, I want to share an event happening next month at the Culpeper County Library.

Culpeper Lecture Series: Solar for Your Home

If you’ve been thinking about getting solar panels for your home, business or farm, join Ashish Kapoor, PEC’s senior energy & climate advisor at our Culpeper Lecture Series for a discussion on small-scale solar options for homeowners looking to save money, reduce their carbon footprint and gain energy independence. Rooftop or ground solar quickly connects clean energy to the grid, helps our regional energy system and can save homeowners hundreds of thousands of dollars. Tax credits and other financial incentives are available to help you pay for your installation. We will go over all this and more during our lecture! Learn more at pecva.org/librarylectures →

This lecture is part of a free monthly series we’re hosting with Friends of the Rappahannock and the Culpeper County Library. Lectures are held on the second Thursday of each month from 7 – 8 p.m. Next lectures are: Bringing Back Grassland Birds; Conserving Forests for Climate; Tree Planting Programs.

Good News: Culpeper Battlefields State Park

Earlier this month, many community members joined us to celebrate the opening of the brand-new Culpeper Battlefields State Park on Fleetwood Hill. From its epicenter, with 360-degree views of open space, speaker after speaker, including Paige Read in the Culpeper tourism and economic department and Gov. Glenn Youngkin, celebrated the importance of the open spaces and views for solace and remembrance, and as an anchor to the economy. I highly encourage you to visit and get out on the land!

PEC staff stand at the new sign for the Culpeper Battlefields State Park on June 8 following the ribbon-cutting event. Photo by Hugh Kenny/PEC

Thanks to the sustained efforts of conservation-minded people, landowners and partner organizations, these places have been repeatedly spared over many decades from new and expanded highways, sprawling residential development and even a Formula 1 racetrack. 

As I stood there witnessing such an exciting celebration of conservation and public access to open spaces, I didn’t miss the irony that the remarkable qualities celebrated at this event are directly threatened by the growing data center industry and associated high-voltage transmission lines planned in its historic view.

Hopeful Development: Planning Commission Recommends Denial of XX Tech Park

And that’s why, I’m thrilled to report that on June 12, the Culpeper Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the denial of the XX Tech Park in Brandy Station. This massive, 4.6-million-square-foot campus is located less than a mile from Fleetwood Hill, the site of the Culpeper Battlefields State Park ribbon cutting. It would require three substations and at least two miles of new transmission line through the heart of Culpeper’s undeveloped farmland. Approving this project would have significant negative impacts on the community of Brandy Station and undoubtedly lead to more industrialization in this predominantly rural area.

We are so grateful for the efforts of everyone who wrote letters and came to speak at the meeting! But our work is not done!

The Board of Supervisors can, and has, ignored the Planning Commission recommendations in the past, so it’s important to stay engaged and not become complacent. Please email the Board of Supervisors and attend the Board hearing for the XX Tech Park on August 6

Hopeful Development: Supervisors Delay Keyser Farm Vote Until July 2

At the request of the applicant, Red Ace Capital Management, the Board of Supervisors delayed its final vote on the Keyser Farm data center campus proposal. 

During the June 4 public hearing, the Board of Supervisors asked several questions, including questions about water usage, that the applicant struggled to answer or could not answer at all. Supervisor David Lee, East Fairfax District, even voiced a statement of opposition to the project because of concerns raised by his constituents that Culpeper had already approved too many data centers.

However, because this project is in the Culpeper Technology Zone, where the County incentivizes data center development, a denial is far from a done deal. If you haven’t already, please write to the Board of Supervisors and come to the Board meeting on July 2.

Hopeful Development: Copper Ridge Substation May Prompt Comprehensive Plan Amendment

Copper Ridge is a 2.2-million-square-foot data center campus planned directly next to the Culpeper National Cemetery and multiple neighborhoods inside the Town of Culpeper. Last year, the Town Council approved this rezoning as well as the rezoning for another data center campus known as the Culpeper Technology Campus. However, the Town neglected to complete a critical step in the approval process of both rezonings, called a 2232 Review.

A 2232 Review requires the local planning commission to determine if the locations of any proposed public utility facilities associated with a rezoning are consistent with the adopted comprehensive plan. This is the case even if the rezoning has already been approved.

As you may recall, the Town Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the Culpeper Technology Campus, meaning that commissioners considered it within the vision of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan. However, Copper Ridge was forwarded to the Town Council with no recommendation because the commissioners were divided over whether or not the Comprehensive Plan supported an industrial development so close to the Culpeper National Cemetery, East Davis Street and people’s homes.

aerial of a neatly manicured cemetery located alone a road, surrounded by green plots of land buffered by trees
Aerial view of the Culpeper National Cemetery and Copper Ridge data center campus site just adjacent. Photo by Hugh Kenny/PEC

On Tuesday, June 18, after conducting the pertinent 2232 reviews, the Town Planning Commission found the location of the Culpeper Technology campus substation to be in accordance with the comprehensive plan, but found the location of the Copper Ridge substation NOT in accordance with the comprehensive plan.

Now, the Town Council must decide. Will it overrule the 2232 Review finding of the Planning Commission? Or will it take our recommendation to formally amend the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, enabling a public process before approving the Copper Ridge substation and ending this trend of opaque government action?

The finding by the Planning Commission occurred in large part because of the efforts of Culpeper community members like you, who stood up, spoke out and held the Town accountable for the impacts of its data center approvals, even absent any public hearing for this review.

You can still help. Write the Culpeper Town Council and ask that it honor the ruling of the Planning Commission at its public hearing on July 9.

These battles over data centers in Culpeper are far from over. We fully expect both the developers behind the XX Tech Park and the Keyser Farm data center campus to try to increase their monetary proffers and produce inflated revenue projections to make their data centers appear more appealing to the Board of Supervisors. Your support is more important than ever, and I hope you’ll consider writing to elected officials about any of the above issues before they come to a decision.

Sarah Parmelee
Land Use Field Representative, Culpeper County
(540) 347-2334 ext. 7045