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.