On the Ground Updates – June 2024

A series of short updates from around the PEC region – Albemarle & CharlottesvilleClarkeCulpeperFauquierGreeneLoudoun, MadisonOrange & Rappahannock.

Albemarle & Charlottesville

Now in the third of four phases, the County’s AC44 comprehensive plan update is focused on developing action items for the goals and objectives in its eight chapters. Building on conservation wins in earlier phases, PEC continues to advance our recommendations for conservation programs, liveable communities, reductions in energy demand and adoption of renewable energy sources that are sensitive to the climate and water resources. 

In response to data center development, Dominion Energy is proposing to wreck and rebuild a larger Gordonsville-Dooms transmission line across Albemarle County. PEC is working at the national and state levels to raise awareness of the negative impacts of this industry on our communities and to advance state and federal policy changes we believe are necessary for the industry to continue to operate sustainably in Virginia.


In March, the Board of Supervisors approved the Horus Virginia LLC 5-megawatt utility-scale solar facility, after the applicant agreed to address several concerns raised by PEC and others about stormwater runoff and topsoil depletion, including phased installation. Located between Triple J and Westwood Rd. near Berryville, the 400-acre facility would be sited atop prime agricultural soils. Under the county’s updated zoning ordinance for solar facilities, this will be the final utility-scale solar facility built in Clarke County.


The future State Park at Culpeper Battlefields, comprising more than 1,000 acres at the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain Civil War battlefields and three other sites, is set to open on July 1. The opening marks the culmination of many years of preservation efforts by the American Battlefield Trust, Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, Brandy Station Foundation and others. Much of the land is already open to the public and includes trails and interpretive signs.

PEC is paying close attention to the XX Tech Park data center campus proposal in historic Brandy Station. This proposal could allow for over 4.6 million square feet of data center building space in an area that lacks both power and water infrastructure to support such a facility. The Culpeper Board of Supervisors has moved to delay its vote on the Keyser Farm data center campus by Red Ace until its July meeting, citing concerns about water and power usage. Though this site is near other approved data centers, the cumulative impacts of unchecked data center growth is a growing concern. 

The State Corporation Commission’s public comment period for Dominion Energy’s Germanna Line and Substation closed on May 21. Our understanding is that this $54.3-million project, for just 1.8 miles of new transmission line and a six-acre substation, which will be paid for by Virginia ratepayers, is being built solely to support the Amazon-owned Marvell data center in Stevensburg. It is also likely to encourage additional industrial development in this otherwise rural area. 

After many residents and farmers expressed their desire to keep Culpeper a rural, agricultural community during the Comprehensive Plan update in 2022-23, the County is examining its Rural Area and Agricultural subdivisions ordinance. We expect to hear more about the potential change later this summer.


The Town of Warrenton planning staff has approved Amazon’s fourth Site Development Plan for its data center on Blackwell Road. Like previous submissions, much of it was redacted, and details about power and noise emitting equipment had yet to be determined. Dominion Energy has said the data center will be served by an underground distribution line within the Route 29 right of way to an off-site substation in the county, though the specifics of this proposal have yet to be shared.

In April, PEC held a community meeting at Liberty High School in Bealeton to inform residents of local data center proposals and a proposed upgrade of an existing transmission line from Morrisville to Loudoun. Dominion Energy has since delayed its submission to the State Corporation Commission, citing the need for additional evaluation of electrical and construction alternatives. 

PEC is tracking multiple rezoning proposals for data center campuses in Remington and Catlett. While the timelines for each vary, some will likely have public hearings this summer or fall. PEC will be participating in and informing residents about that public process and raising important questions about power availability and community impacts.


Assisted by PEC, two landowners permanently conserved 142 acres of forested land on the east side of Powell Mountain, about a mile east of Shenandoah National Park. These easements, held by the Virginia Department of Forestry, will help maintain important natural habitat, watershed protection and the scenic beauty of the Virginia Route 33 corridor.

Greene County included a new land use in its recently adopted comprehensive plan. This Technology/Flex/Research and Development District is intended to support the County’s economic development initiative, including data centers and defense industry companies associated with Rivanna Station in Albemarle County.


The Zoning Ordinance Amendment to address rural economy and zoning issues has begun. PEC will be working with multiple partners to ensure that community stakeholders are fully engaged.

The County started its first five-year review of the 2019 Comprehensive Plan, which is expected to take 11 months. PEC will be engaged as county staff address various residential and commercial development issues primarily related to the Suburban Policy Area. 

In April, PEC spoke at the Board of Supervisors Public Hearing in support of the Prime Soils and Cluster Subdivision ordinance, due for a final decision on June 12, with edits to improve the ordinance. 

PEC held a rally in March to demonstrate public opposition to data center rezonings and special exceptions. We opposed the Belmont Center Innovation Data Center application, which ultimately was approved after conforming more closely to the zoning requirements for the site. 

Three new data center rezonings will be considered by the Board of Supervisors over the next few months: Greenlin Park, Hiddenwood Assemblage and Orme Farm. PEC opposes all of them and will notify the public when the public hearings are scheduled.


As part of our Upper Rappahannock-Rapidan Watershed initiative, PEC secured funding from the USDA’s Agricultural Land Easement program, The Volgenau Foundation, and Virginia Land Conservation Foundation to permanently conserve two working farms, both containing prime agricultural soils, totaling 972 acres.


The proposed 932-acre, 80-megawatt Sunfish utility-scale solar facility continues to make its way through the Planning Commission review process. We remain concerned about this project’s impact on over 650 acres of productive farmland.

Two community solar proposals failed to move forward in March. Citing that viewshed and decommissioning concerns were not adequately addressed by the applicant, the Board of Supervisors denied the Cunningham Springs Solar project, despite the Planning Commission’s recommendation. The ESA Solar proposal, similar in size, withdrew its special use permit application only days later.

The Board of Supervisors tabled the Planning Commission’s proposed common sense guidelines for siting and decommissioning solar facilities, in favor of a zoning amendment that would prohibit community solar and utility-scale solar countywide. PEC is opposed to such a sweeping amendment as it would preclude even well-sited and appropriate projects. A public hearing on the amendment has not yet been scheduled.


The County continues its review and revision of zoning rules under the guidance of both county staff and consultants with the Berkeley Group. Hearings are being held this spring, most recently with proposed changes to signage provisions. The process is ongoing and will continue through the coming months. 

This update appeared in the 2024 summer edition of The Piedmont Environmental Council’s member newsletter, The Piedmont View. If you’d like to become a PEC member or renew your membership, please visit pecva.org/join.