The following PEC email alert was sent on Tuesday, April 18. To sign up for emails visit: pecva.org/signup
I am writing to update you on Wilderness Crossing. At its March 23 public hearing, after comments from 30 speakers — and all but one opposed to Wilderness Crossing — the Orange County Planning Commission deferred its decision to give the applicant more time to consider comments from the public and commissioners. Then, on April 6, the Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend approval of the project, despite the fact that most of the changes suggested by commissioners were not made.
The decision now rests with the Board of Supervisors, which will hold its own public hearing on the proposed Wilderness Crossing rezoning on April 25. It’s time to tell the Board what you think about this deeply flawed and speculative proposal. (Read on for details on the many significant concerns we have.)
Board of Supervisors Public Hearing
Tuesday, April 25 @ 5 p.m.
Orange County Public Safety Building
11282 Government Center Drive
Orange, VA 22960
This is a new public hearing, so anyone who spoke before the Planning Commission, can and should sign up to speak again. A large showing of residents like you is needed to demonstrate strong community opposition to the Board of Supervisors! Please consider joining your neighbors and groups like PEC at the hearing. You can also submit written comments to the Board of Supervisors now.
If you have been following Wilderness Crossing for the past two years, you already know the reasons why we think this is a bad deal for Orange County residents, and those reasons didn’t change as a result of the Planning Commission’s decision.
Make no mistake: if Orange County decides to approve this rezoning, the door will be opened to a period of explosive and unsustainable growth with no plans for how to mitigate the impacts. In addition to the huge residential development, causing increased demand for schools, fire and rescue and other public services, the proposal allows for an unprecedented level of industrial and commercial development, likely centered around energy-hogging data centers, which also come with needs for new transmission lines and generation.
Energy requirements for data centers average around 150 watts per square foot. Wilderness Crossing would likely allow five million square feet, or 750,000,000 watts (750 MW). To put that in perspective, that is equivalent to approximately 187,500 homes at peak power usage.
Problems with the application:
- Wilderness Crossing doesn’t comply with the zoning ordinance: it is too big and too industrial, and is not pedestrian-oriented.
- Non disclosure agreements prevented the Planning Commission from even knowing exactly what is being proposed: is it a data center, an Amazon-style warehouse/distribution center, a housing development, or all of the above?
- The proposal contains no site layout showing where industrial buildings would be located, no architectural elevations showing design or height. Without these, no viewshed study can be done, and the impacts to nearby resources like Wilderness Battlefield are impossible to measure.
- According to the Rapidan Service Authority (RSA), in the event of a drought, there may not be enough water in the Rapidan River to supply even the County’s existing needs. And the RSA refused to provide the Planning Commission any written reassurance of its ability to meet future needs created by Wilderness Crossing. Because of the nondisclosure agreements, we don’t know what type of data center is being considered, which could make a significant difference in terms of water usage.
- Regarding the proffers related to gold mining and remediation of toxic contamination, so much more should be done to ensure public and environmental health. The risk assessment activities should be completed before the applicant is allowed to break ground, the public should be able to provide input and there should be a timeline for completion of remediation activities. And a plan should be in place for ongoing, third-party monitoring of the remediation activities and the results of the monitoring should be made public. None of this is happening.
The International League of Conservation Photographers just released a story digging into issues related to gold mining in Virginia, past and future, and specifically mentions Wilderness Crossing. See the story map →
- Finally, the local tax impacts could be significant and costly. In addition to expenses related to water supply, public services and transportation, Wilderness Crossing would likely accelerate the need for a new high school and possibly an expansion of the County landfill. The applicant’s fiscal impact study, understates costs and overstates tax revenue from Wilderness Crossing. County taxpayers should expect higher taxes, rather than the applicant’s claimed windfall. In effect, this will be a subsidy to new residents, businesses, and the developers, paid for by current Orange County taxpayers.
Thank you again to those of you who have already sent a letter or shown up for the Planning Commission’s public hearing! It is inspiring to see so many residents committed to protecting Orange County’s natural and historic resources, beautiful landscapes and rural character. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions ahead of the public hearing on April 25, and I hope to see you there!
Orange County Field Representative
(434) 977-2033 ext. 7047