Gainesville data center I-66 Route 29

The proposed data center complex would be across U.S. Route 29 from the Virginia Gateway shopping center, just south of Interstate 66.   

Data center proposals keep coming in Prince William County.

But one will have to wait a little longer to move forward.

During its meeting Wednesday night, the Planning Commission unanimously deferred a request for a data center on undeveloped land in Gainesville. 

The 102-acre property, owned by Southview 66 LLC and Gainesville JM LC, is sandwiched between Interstate 66, U.S. Route 29, Va. Route 55 and Catharpin Road. It is near George Tyler Elementary School.

The proposal, dubbed the I-66 and U.S. 29 Technology Park, is for six rectangular data centers with a 50-foot landscape buffer around the property. An entrance is planned off Va. 55, or John Marshall Highway.

The company is seeking to rezone a 5-acre portion of the property from agriculture to business, along with a special-use permit to allow data center uses outside of the county’s Data Center Opportunity Zone overlay district. The land is about 2,500 feet outside of the overlay district. 

Gainesville Commissioner Richard Berry made an initial motion to defer the proposal until the county completes an ongoing evaluation of its Data Center Opportunity Zone overlay district. The motion failed 4-4, as did a subsequent motion to recommend approval.

The Board of Supervisors voted in May to spend $120,000 to hire a consultant to study areas to expand the data center district along high-transmission power lines. The overlay district is currently 10,000 acres, designated in 2016 to support data center development by reducing regulatory hurdles.

The consultant will examine potential areas to expand the district but will also consider necessary changes to construction standards, the Comprehensive Plan and the zoning ordinance, along with any other effects from data centers. The study is expected to take six to nine months.

Eventually, commissioners compromised to defer the request until no later than Oct. 20 with an update and preliminary information on the overlay district study.

The company also wants to amend the conditions of a previous rezoning on the entirety of the property to allow up to 2.89 million square feet of data center uses. The existing conditions allow up to 1.13 million square feet of permitted commercial uses.

The developer would contribute $1.78 million to the county for its impact on water quality and emergency services.

One of the caveats of the proposal is that the developer has agreed it cannot receive building permits if it, at any point, the project would require construction of electric transmission lines from the west.

The developer estimated that construction would support 7,600 to 14,200 jobs and generate $30 million to $57 million in tax revenue. Once completed, the project is expected to support 500 to 630 jobs and $34 million to $65 million in annual tax revenue.

Commissioners who weren’t sold on the proposal raised concerns about energy usage and its compatibility with surrounding uses, in addition to the fact that the development didn’t have a planned user.

“This would be a massive data center complex,” Berry said. “I believe such a development is inconsistent with surrounding uses”

At-Large Commissioner Don Taylor believed the proposal should move forward, but eventually conceded to defer the request.

“We want to be cautious here of not letting perfect become the enemy of good,” he said.

Woodbridge Commissioner Cynthia Moses-Nedd said the commission should take time to gather more information before making its recommendation.

“If it comes back and we need to move forward, at least we’ve done our due diligence,” she said.

 

Nolan Stout covers Prince William County. Reach him at nstout@insidenova.com or @TheNolanStout on Facebook and Twitter.

(1) comment

All American

I would rather have a data center taking up 102 acres with 12-15 cars than 2,000 townhouses with 6,000 cars.

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