On Wednesday, Feb. 15, the Warrenton Town Council voted 4-3 to approve Amazon’s Special Use Permit application to build a new data center at Blackwell Rd. More than 500 people attended and nearly 130 speakers expressed their opposition, many of whom stayed until the bitter end around 2 a.m. The turnout of Warrenton and Fauquier County residents was historic, with all but three speakers urging the Town to deny this ill-conceived proposal.
We expect that Amazon and Dominion will both be moving forward with plans to develop the site and submit potential transmission routing to the State Corporation Commission (SCC) in 2023. Multiple route options for transmission and distribution lines, and new substations, have been proposed by Dominion. They can be viewed at dominionenergy.com/blackwellroad.
In September 2021, Amazon Web Services, Inc. purchased a 41.8-acre parcel at Blackwell Road in Warrenton (behind Country Chevrolet) with the intention to build a data center. Then in late March 2022, Dominion Energy shared plans to build a new substation at the Amazon site and then bring a new 230-kV transmission line into that substation in order to serve the proposed data center. At that time, Amazon had not filed the required special use permit with the Town, in accordance with an August 2021 zoning text amendment. In November 2022, during the Town’s review of the special use permit, Dominion changed its plans to serve the Blackwell Road site to the two currently proposed transmission/distribution route options. Citing missing information on information on the project’s noise, electric power requirements, tax revenues and visual impacts, the Planning Commission recommended denial of the Special Use Permit in December 2022.
PEC has been closely following these developments and has a number of concerns, including a lack of transparency to the public. We submitted FOIA requests to the Town and County for correspondence related to the Amazon data center dating back to May 2020, which you can read here and here, respectively.
An overhead 230-kV transmission line would have the effect of industrializing any corridor it runs through. Even the proposed underground distribution routes could have significant impacts such as tree removal, traffic, cumbersome construction easements, and potential loss of property value. Any one of the potential routes serving the Amazon data center would have a detrimental impact on the gateway(s) into the Town of Warrenton, on historic and cultural resources along the route, and to nearby residential neighborhoods.
- Amazon study says its data center noise will meet town standards (Sept. 14, 2022 | Fauquier Times)
- Balloon test finds Amazon data center may be visible to some Warrenton residents (Sept. 16, 2022 | Fauquier Now)
- Data centers’ secrecy often keeps residents in the dark (Oct. 5, 2022 | Fauquier Times)