Hansbrough Ridge

Members of the public stand on Hansbrough Ridge on March 28 for a tour of local historical resources that may be affected by Amazon data center. In the background is the site for the project.

Nestled in between two of Culpeper County’s historic sites lay plans for construction on two industrial buildings on over 230 agricultural acres courtesy of Amazon Web Services.

Currently the location of Magnolia Equestrian Center on Route 3 in Stevensburg, the property will soon house over 400,000-square-feet of structures and a six-acre substation with the backdrop of Culpeper’s rolling agricultural lands.

“I would say personally, and certainly the way PEC views it, is (we were) incredibly disappointed,” said Senior Policy Manager and Field Representative for Culpeper, Madison and Greene counties for The Piedmont Environmental Council Adam Gillenwater.

Nearly 40 members of the public took to the podium during a Culpeper County Board of Supervisors meeting on April 5 to outline their objections to the application’s passage.

Despite hours of requests for denial, the measure was passed with a 4 to 3 vote.

Supervisors Gary Deal, Tom Underwood, Paul Bates and David Durr voted in favor and Supervisors Susan Gugino, Brad Rosenberger and Kathy Campbell voted against it.

Some of PEC concerns for the project included “clear adverse impacts” to historic and scenic resources combined with the “yet-to-be-determined” transmission line infrastructure that will be needed to provide electricity and power.

On March 28, representatives from The Germanna Foundation, American Battlefield Trust, Journey Through Hallowed Ground and PEC took members of the public as well as Culpeper County Supervisors on an over two hour tour of Salubria and Hansbrough Ridge as a form of educational outreach.

“(We wanted) to provide our take and our concerns about why we didn't think this data center was appropriate in this location and to also convey those concerns to members of the board, who would have the ultimate decision,” Gillenwater said.

Salubria, which is about a half mile from the site, is an 18th century Georgian-style manor house built by the Reverend John Thompson. The home was placed on the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register in 1969 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

Hansbrough Ridge, which sits on the opposite side of Route 3, played an instrumental role in the Civil War in many aspects including hosting 20,000 soldiers of the Army of the Potomac’s 2nd Corps for five months during the winter of 1863-1864.

Gugino, who represents the Stevensburg district, indicated during the tour that she had primarily heard negative comments about the proposed project.

“I’ve been hearing nothing but, ‘Please protect our farm land. Please protect our character,’” she said.

“It’s really their input that matters to me over my personal convictions.”

The majority, she continued, indicate it’s “the right time, wrong place.”

“We don’t think it’s good land use planning to essentially spot zone agricultural land or land in general for that matter to industrial use to accommodate proposals like this,” Gillenwater said.

Another objection, Gillenwater said, was how fast the application seemed to move through the county’s staff, advisory board and taxing body.

“There was no reason for it to move as quickly as it moved, considering the significant degree of impacts that (it’s going to have).”

Prior to the vote, PEC took direct actions with the public to educate them on the pending passage by taking an advertisement on Facebook.

“Now it's more important than ever that supervisors hear from their constituents about the impacts this industrial rezoning would have on a rural and uniquely historic/scenic area of Culpeper,” it read. “Urge the Board to do the right thing and encourage Amazon to seek a location in the County that is already industrially-zoned for data centers.”

Gillenwater also projected “several dozen” people used a website they created to send letters directly to supervisors.

maria@culpepertimes.com

(9) comments

Donald Quella

[sad]Earth Day 2022 - A non-event for Inside Nova.

Abbey Sinclair

Anyone else noticed there is no coverage of farming and forestry by Inside Nova?

Lynne June

When I heard that this behemoth was coming to the beautiful countryside of Culpeper, I could not believe it. Will Supervisors do anything to their counties just to generate tax revenue? Btw, I’m not an Amazon shopper; quite happy to give my business to local businesses.

Casey Avatar

Another objection, Gillenwater said, was how fast the application seemed to move through the county’s staff, advisory board and taxing body."

Funny, same thing happened in western FFX County. Two data centers got approved quickly and no one knew what was happening until after the supervisors approved it. Now everyone is concerned about the impacts these structres will have especially water usage from the Occoquan. I hear Pageland Road in PWC may get suspended pending water usage that was requested by Fairfax Water due to the strain they will have on the water supply that services ~800k residents.

Donald Quella

Sympathy from the chamber-of-commerce-booster local media that express concern AFTER an anti-environment deal is approved by chamber-of-commerce-booster pols.

Janet Smith

Industrial zoned land? How about the Media provide a list of local coal burning power plants that will be taken out of service over the next few years which already have high voltage power lines in place? This just goes to show (again) that farms, forests, trees, and streams are more nuisances to pols who only want more development, never mind future costs and consequences.

Donald Quella

Much less expensive to bulldoze hundreds of acres of historic agricultural land because cleaning up the environmental mess at old power plants would cost a fortune.

Joe Homas

Again, ARE there any old coal-fired power plants in the vicinity of the rezoned site?

Joe Homas

ARE there any "local coal burning power plants?"

Aside from the unavoidable ugliness of construction, I don't see how this facility will have a negative impact on the surrounding properties. Though likely not required by zoning laws, the proposed buildings' visible impact could be significantly ameliorated by installation of an evergreen buffer along the property lines.

Post-construction traffic to the site is likely going to be a dozen vehicles per day.

This site will be far less impactful than the green houses and orchid nursery just a half mile to the east.

The failing equine facility currently operating on the site is evidence that "agricultural" uses are not the highest and best use of the land.

Opposition to this rezoning is just another example of NIMBY-ism. It's good and right that the opposition failed.

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