Gateway Map

Prince William County’s Racial and Social Justice Commission has joined the chorus of entities raising the alarm over the proposed PW Digital Gateway.

At its meeting Oct. 20, the commission passed two resolutions raising concerns about the proposal.

The project, which calls for 27.6 million square feet of data centers across 2,100 acres along Pageland Lane, has quickly become the most controversial and contentious local land-use proposal in decades.

Earlier this month, the county’s Historical Commission also expressed opposition to the proposal.

The Racial and Social Justice Commission’s first motion expressed concern about the potential impact that development in the corridor could have on areas historically significant to Black people who lived in the area.

County officials have called for preservation of graveyards throughout the area and studying the boundaries of the Settlement Community and Thornton School, which was created to educate freed slaves and was located at the corner of Pageland Lane and Thornton Drive.

The motion passed 11-0-1 with Interim County Executive Elijah Johnson abstaining.

“We can’t remain silent on something we’re obligated to do as a Racial and Social Justice Commission,” said Commissioner Oliver Allen Jr. (Potomac). “It might not make a difference in the world, but at least we said something.”

Commission member Mac Haddow of the Coles District said not having all the necessary information was a reason the board should not vote on Nov. 1. He said the commission could not say nothing when a global corporation was going to “stomp on the Black community” in Prince William County because it didn’t respect that “oral history and family records substitute for government records when government records weren’t kept for Black families.”

“We cannot do anything but act and ask the Board of County Supervisors to delay it,” he said.

The second motion raised concerns about the potential impact of the project on the Occoquan watershed, which would affect communities of color because the county is majority-minority. It said the county should conduct a water study before approving the project.

Allen, Haddow and commissioners Vicky Castro (Occoquan), Shantell Rock (Woodbridge), London Steverson (Brentsville) and Erica Tredinnick (Gainesville) voted in favor of the water study motion.

Commissioners Byron Jenkins (At-Large), Christopher Frederick Sr. (Neabsco), Police Chief Peter Newsham, Human Rights Commission Chair Curtis Porter and School Board member Loree Williams (Woodbridge) voted against it.

Williams said she needed more information before supporting the water study motion. 

“I feel like, in a project this large and this size, I would like to see more information about how this specifically impacts Black and brown community members and more detailed information that doesn’t seem to be available at this time of the effect of data centers on the water quality,” she said.

The Board of County Supervisors is scheduled to hold a public hearing Nov. 1 on a key first part of the project.

 

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

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(8) comments

Paul Deed

Sounds like we are living in Nazi Germany with commissions such as this. Insane.

Rod McSmith

A social and racial justice committee weighing in on economics and land use? LOL

Harry Morant

Oh No! What will the woke BOS do now?? The new privileged class has spoken! I hope they haven't cashed those under-the-table checks yet!

Bill Wright

I applaud the Commission for taking a courageous stand against this pending exploitation.

The county has been negligent in failing to compute the expected COST of recharacterizing 2,139 acres of agricultural and residential land for intense industrial development. At the September 14th Planning Commission public hearing, the Planning Office was directly asked about project costs and their answer was a shrug. It is incomprehensibly irresponsible to recommend a project by presenting only its potential revenues without considering the offsetting costs and other potential ill-effects. The proposal is NOT all gain and no pain.

The county has consistently minimized the threat to water quality in the Occoquan reservoir, which supplies drinking water to the eastern districts of Prince William County. They refuse to conduct a study to assess the potential impacts until AFTER project approval, even though multiple water quality experts have urged them to do so beforehand. The county is already on record acknowledging the problem of excess salinity in the Occoquan reservoir and recommended additional studies are required to address the issue. Experts have told us that the only way to address excess salinity is through expensive desalinization processes that would require new facilities COSTING BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Those hazards and costs will relegated to the poor souls remaining in Prince William long after the proposal’s advocates have fled. IS THAT SOCIAL JUSTICE?

What about the undefined costs and effects of transportation improvements required? The cost of widening a four-mile stretch of Pageland Lane alone would be up to $100 million. There are a multitude of other improvements required as suggested in VDOT’’s review of the CPA, but the biggest potential impact would be the resurrection of the Bi-County Parkway. Adding a 2,139-acre industrial development along the intended right-of-way will bring this loathsome project out of mothballs and have profoundly negative effect on communities along Route 234 as it becomes the new cut-through path for trucks bound from I-95 to Dulles airport. IS THAT SOCIAL JUSTICE?

Any rational discussion of the benefits and detriments of the Prince William Digital Gateway must also address the insincere narratives being peddled to promote the project. These include such overt appeals to demographic division as equating measures intended for rural and environmental preservation with “racial redlining”. Project advocates motivated by financial rewards have deliberately conflated environmental responsibility with racial discrimination and data center development with social justice. Consider if there are any elements of truth in these appeals or if they just are part of a cynical marketing scheme to stoke and exploit social resentments.

Who do they think they’re kidding?

Paul Benedict

I may have to reassess my opposition to the digital gateway.

Actually, I don't have a problem with data centers (they have to be someplace) as long as they don't tear up beautiful countryside. I would rather see all of the old eyesore buildings along Highway 1 in Woodbridge (from Gordon Blvd to Cardinal Ave) torn down and replaced with data centers. This would also reduce the murder rate in Prince William County as it would eliminate three 7-11 stores. And it would not destroy any historic cemeteries or disrespect the “oral history and family records substitute for government records when government records weren’t kept for Black families.” whatever that means.

Dick Grayson

Joke commission

Duke Nukem

When a commission of such power we have not seen before in the PWC lays down the hammer there is no option but to follow their guidance. I expect this to have more weight than any little citizen could ever have.

George Lawton IV

Inside Nova is like the Babylon Bee now with their headlines..lol

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