Wilderness Crossing, RSA Withdrawal Permit, Elections

The following text was sent out via email on August 17, 2023. Sign up for PEC email alerts →

aerial view of river surrounded by forest
The Rapidan River winding through Orange County. Photo by Hugh Kenny/PEC

Dear Supporter,

I am writing with a brief update on Wilderness Crossing and some related Orange County happenings.

Wilderness Crossing Lawsuit

PEC continues to support the lawsuit filed by American Battlefield Trust (ABT) and other plaintiffs against Orange County for violations of state law and local ordinance in approving the Wilderness Crossing rezoning. A hearing date has not yet been set, but the County has already acknowledged its own error (click on “Agenda Packet” and go to page 22) in relation to one of the plaintiffs’ complaints: the rushed approval of the building height amendment to the zoning ordinance.

Indicative of the County’s determination to approve Wilderness Crossing this spring, despite the scale and complexity of the project and lingering unanswered questions from Planning Commissioners, the County in March prescribed a shortened Planning Commission review period for the developer-proposed building height amendment to the zoning ordinance—without a public hearing, as is required by law. The amendment cleared the way for multi-story data center buildings of up to 80 feet in the industrial areas of Wilderness Crossing. In an about-face, the County abruptly rescinded the improperly enacted amendment at its July meeting and declared it void, apparently having agreed with ABT’s complaint.

At any time, the Board of Supervisors could choose to resubmit the amendment for review by the Planning Commission in compliance with the law, but has not yet done so. This means (for now) there’s a 45-ft height limit on buildings within the development.

Rapidan Service Authority Requests Surprising, Increased Water Withdrawal Limits

In other Wilderness Crossing news, the Rapidan Service Authority has filed an application (see memorandum beginning on page 30 in the PDF) with DEQ to renew its water withdrawal permit for the Wilderness Water Treatment Plant on the Rapidan River, which serves much of eastern Orange County. As these permits must be renewed every 15 years, this would be a routine renewal, except for the fact that the RSA has asked to increase the permitted daily withdrawal volume limit by one million gallons per day. PEC and another partner organization are digging into the application to find out what is driving this increase, and we will continue to follow this application through DEQ’s review process.

Board of Supervisors Election in November

While we wait for further developments in the Wilderness Crossing lawsuit and the water withdrawal permit, I encourage you to learn about the candidates for Board of Supervisors. In November, voters will be filling four of the five seats on the Board. Board members serve four year terms and have the ultimate say on critical land use decisions and policies that impact residents and businesses in the County.

If land use, environmental, or good governance issues are important to you, talk to the candidates early and find out where they stand on critical issues affecting Orange County. Talk to your neighbors, volunteer to help get out the vote, and don’t forget to vote yourself!


Don McCown
Orange County Field Representative
(434) 977-2033 ext. 7047

P.S. PEC’s support of the ABT lawsuit, land use and advocacy work in Orange County is only made possible through the financial support of our members. If you aren’t yet a PEC member, please consider becoming one today at pecva.org/join.