Prince William County’s planning staff and Planning Commission have recommended denial
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On Tuesday, Dec. 12, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors is holding a public hearing on the three data center campus rezonings, collectively referred to as Digital Gateway. Since this may be the last time the public has a chance to weigh in before a vote, we are encouraging folks from Prince William and impacted adjacent localities to pack the room and make their concerns heard as much as possible.
Taken together, this industrial corridor easily tops the largest data center proposals in the world and would rival Data Center Alley in Loudoun County. Located along Pageland Lane from Sudley Road in Catharpin to the western side of Manassas National Battlefield Park, the proposal includes 37 data center buildings and 14 electrical substations.
Call to Action – Attend the Public Hearing
Tuesday, Dec. 12: Board of Supervisors Public Hearing
James J. McCoart Administration Building
1 County Complex Court, Woodbridge, VA
The Board of Supervisors meeting will start at 10 a.m. and be held in the Board chambers. Sign-ups to speak in person will begin at 8 a.m. You can also sign up in advance between now and Monday, Dec. 11 at 5 p.m. to speak virtually. Written comments may be submitted to the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Digital Gateway
If approved, the Digital Gateway would have a massive impact on the region’s energy grid. The existing demand from Data Center Alley is already driving the need for multiple new controversial 500 kV transmission lines — PJM has proposed around $5 billion in transmission upgrades primarily to address data center load growth and energy generation needs in Northern Virginia. This proposal would stand to make a bad situation worse, impacting not just Prince William, Fauquier and Loudoun counties, but other localities, too.
While the applicants have not provided any information about power usage, even the lowest numbers from other data centers suggest Digital Gateway would at a minimum require 2 to 3 gigawatts of power – the equivalent of ALL current data centers in Northern Virginia.
This would require new 230 kV to 500 kV transmission lines connecting the 14 substations within the project area and could potentially necessitate even more outside the project area. In general, the costs of new transmission lines and power generation projects are paid for by all ratepayers of Virginia, meaning approval of these data centers could make your monthly utility bill go up.
County Planning Staff Recommend Denial (Again)
This project has seen multiple inadequate application submissions, and again and again, the County’s professional planning staff have recommended denial. Last month, the Planning Commission also recommended denial when it sent the proposal to the Board of Supervisors.
Now having reviewed the fifth submission by applicants on Nov. 1, County staff have reaffirmed their recommendation of denial, based on inconsistency with the comprehensive plan, lack of critical information on buildings and electrical infrastructure, and excessive flexibility in the proffers for the applicants to modify their plans after approval.
We hope that the Board of Supervisors will heed staff and Planning Commission recommendations, and the overwhelming opposition from residents and local organizations, that this application is not in the best interest of the public and should be denied or postponed, at the very least.
Regardless of whether Pageland Lane is the right place for the next Data Center Alley (a premise that PEC has never agreed with), rezoning 2,139 acres from rural land to an intensive industrial corridor involving massive infrastructure upgrades is not a decision that should be made hastily and without all the information.
Since the application is thousands of pages long, the planning staff’s professional assessment is critical here. With the application’s limited information and the inclusion of several “escape clauses” to make adjustments post-approval, the applicants have unwarranted flexibility to change the project vision and fall short on promises made to the public. Worse, without full information, the County and residents can’t anticipate or prepare for what’s ahead. In this particular case, the ramifications to adjacent properties, local air and water, quality of life, and the Prince William taxpayers could be immense. That should give the Supervisors and even those in favor of the proposal pause.
Last Chance to Make Your Voice Heard
We believe there will likely be a vote on Dec. 12, so it is critical to make your voice heard now. We are urging the Prince William County Board of Supervisors to slow down and at a minimum make a motion to table the vote until the applicants can provide assurance on how the site will be developed in consistency with the comprehensive plan.
In addition to scary implications to the region’s energy grid, this proposal is a bad deal for Prince William County residents. It threatens the water supply, harms the visitor experience at the state and national parklands adjacent to it, and will induce more industrial, inefficient land use sprawl and traffic. You can read more about what’s at stake in PEC’s previous alert from Sept. 2022.
It’s critical to Prince William residents and all Virginians who will experience the broader ramifications of this proposal for the County to act prudently. The largest and most impactful land use decision in recent history should not be rushed under a false illusion of urgency.
Director of Land Use
(540) 347-2334 x7042