Prince William County planners have hit the brakes on one data center as officials determine the path forward for the industry.
During its Nov. 3 meeting, the Planning Commission voted 6-1 to table a proposal for a data center in Gainesville until late January.
Potomac Commissioner Juan McPhail cast the dissenting vote and the Neabsco District seat was vacant.
CTP-II LLC wants to rezone 22.72 acres from business and light industrial to office mid-rise to construct a data center. The property, owned by Gainesville Sixty-Six LLC, is at the intersection of Catharpin Road and John Marshall Highway, or Route 55.
In June, the company, operating under CTP-I LLC, received approval for another data center on a 64-acre parcel across Route 55.
The project is across Catharpin Road from a proposed data center on 102 acres dubbed the I-66 and U.S. 29 Technology Park. That project moved forward last month, although the Planning Commission couldn’t agree on a recommendation.
The latest proposal is for a facility across two buildings. Sherman Patrick Jr., director of zoning and entitlements for Compton & Duling, said the project would represent $556 million in capital investment and generate $41 million in tax revenue over 10 years.
Patrick said construction would support more than 300 jobs and, once it is completed, the data center will provide 80 to 100 jobs with an average salary of $125,000.
The company is providing $394,113 to the county to offset the development’s impact on water quality and fire and rescue services. Patrick said the company also plans to provide $125,000 to support affordable housing and donate $50,000 to the nearby Pace West School.
The company will also construct traffic improvements at the intersection of Catharpin Road and Route 55. The work includes additional turn lanes, widening the road, crosswalks and traffic signal improvements.
The project requires a special-use permit because it is outside the Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District, which is 10,000 acres that were designated in 2015 to support data centers.
The Board of Supervisors voted in May to spend $120,000 to hire a consultant to study areas to expand the district along high-transmission power lines. 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.
In a public hearing, speakers were opposed to putting the project outside of the data center district and were concerned about the availability of power.
Karen Sheehan, representing the Coalition to Protect Prince William County, said Gainesville and Haymarket are quickly being “overrun by data centers, transmission lines and substations.”
“I welcome change. I welcome progress. I want to see changes that are to the benefit of all county citizens,” she said. “No buffers of any depth will hide massive buildings that don’t belong where they’re proposed.”
Gainesville Commissioner Richard Berry said data center proposals need to be put on hold while the study is completed.
“I don’t think we should be approving more data centers outside of the overlay district until the county’s study is done,” he said. “Taking action now is premature while the study is ongoing.”
Deputy County Executive Rebecca Horner said draft portions of the study aren’t expected until the new year.
Commissioners also wanted more concrete information on where the facility would draw power, saying the information presented thus far was vague.
“I don’t understand how we can send a man to the moon but we can’t get closer on what we really need on these projects,” Berry said.
McPhail felt the developer wouldn’t be able to give much more because the decisions lie with Dominion Energy. “If I heard the applicant correctly, the best they’re going to come back with is speculation because only the utility provider can say where the power will come from.”
The commission closed the public hearing on the rezoning, but left the hearing open for the special-use permit so residents can provide comments when the proposal comes back before the panel.
In other business, the commission moved to change its meeting dates in 2022 from the first and third Wednesdays of each month to the second and fourth Wednesdays.