Wednesday’s historic data center denial in Loudoun

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collage of three images with people wearing red and holding up handmade signs about data center development
Residents gathered outside the hearing to show their support for a new approach to data center approvals in Loudoun. Credit Gem Bingol/PEC

Dear Supporter,

As you may have seen in the local news (Loudoun Times / Loudoun Now), on Wednesday evening the Loudoun Board of Supervisors voted 5-4 to deny the Belmont Innovation Campus rezoning application for 2.9 million square feet of data center space on 112 acres along Belmont Ridge Rd.

While we appreciated the applicant’s offers to minimize impacts on the environment with wider buffers, rooftop solar panels, trails, and park space, and hope to see similar efforts from other developers, the doubling of data center space as permitted by-right was a non-starter. The additional 1.6 million square feet of data center space requested by the applicant alone would’ve been equivalent in impervious surface area to eight Walmart Supercenters – directly adjacent to Goose Creek, a sensitive waterway and state scenic river. 

The application lacked specific details on the number of buildings and their locations and the number of diesel generators. There was also no commitment to limit the facilities’ energy demand to a certain quantity. However, using industry averages, we can estimate the additional square footage would’ve required another 200 diesel generators, another substation (resulting in up to three total on-site) and 400 megawatts of electricity (a small gas power plant worth of power!) – increasing local air impacts to residents and strain on the grid.

The reality is that Loudoun’s current infrastructure already needs to be expanded to meet the near-future energy demand from data centers that have been built and approved. More data centers mean more electrical infrastructure (backup diesel generators, substations, transmission lines and power generation facilities) and there is a frightening amount of land that can be developed as data centers by-right in the county (meaning no votes, no public hearings and no proffers). This is why we believe the County must stop allowing further expansions and rezonings of land to allow even more.

We thank the 50+ Loudoun residents who spoke against the proposal at the public hearing, and the many more of you who came out to the hearing and wrote letters. Thanks also to our partners who voiced concerns, including Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, the local chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, Loudoun Climate Project, Loudoun Chapter of Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, Loudoun Coalition of Homeowners and Condominium Associations, the Data Center Workgroup of the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition, the residents of Woodlands At Goose Creek, and others.

We commend the Board of Supervisors for looking at the facts of the situation and considering the cumulative impact of this decision on the electric grid and surrounding community.

a women wearing red stands at a podium to speak
I joined other PEC staff, partners and community members in providing testimony before the Board of Supervisors.

Here’s the link to find the video recording of the meeting, which can be located under ‘Available Archives.’ Some key points in the discussion: applicant summary (3:07:27), board questions to applicant (3:10:19 – 3:28:22), Dominion Energy representative testimony (3:25:00), citizen testimony (3:28:50), Robert Pollard from Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition (3:36:06), PEC Board member Natalie Pien (3:38:40), PEC Senior Field Representative Tia Earman (3:49:53), Emily Southgate from Virginia Native Plant Society (4:09:21), Rev. Jean Wright from FACS (4:16:10), Trinity Mills from Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy (4:19:00), Chris Tandy from Loudoun Climate Project (4:30:42), PEC Director of Land Use Julie Bolthouse (4:43:00), PEC Senior Field Representative Gem Bingol (5:23:10), board discussion and motions (5:32:26), board vote to deny the application (6:05:05).

Please take a moment to send a note of thanks to the Board of Supervisors for its landmark vote, and to express your support for supervisors continuing to do their part to help get this problem under control.


Gem Bingol
Senior Land Use Field Representative
540-347-2334 ext. 7041