Gainesville superintendent Pete Candland has joined his neighbors in asking Prince William County to allocate his land for data centers, saying there is no option as the industry continues to expand.
Kandland and his wife were among 19 homeowners in the Catharpine farm neighborhood who filed a sweeping amendment to the plan on November 4 with the goal of changing the naming of their property.
Modifying the global plan does not result in a repartition of properties. It only changes what the county says it hopes for the future use of the land. Neither the county, the board of directors nor the landowners are obligated to any guaranteed future uses. Properties will still require zoning approval to allow data centers.
The Prince William Times first reported on the request, but the document submitted to the county was not available at press time. According to The Times, the request is to designate the land as technology/flexible for data center uses. Kandland posted the request to Facebook after the Times story was published.
“[W]Considering Pageland Lane becoming a “data center alley,” Kandland wrote, which our region had never seen before, it disrupted everything.
The neighborhood is located off Pageland Lane and close to vast estates seeking to change the same land use designation.
Sixteen land owners want to change the 801-acre designation across 27 plots from agricultural zoning to technology zoning for a “digital portal” for data center development. In July, Kandland cast one of three votes against the request, but agreed by 5-3 votes.
Residents of the nearby Dominique Estates neighborhood have also requested a similar change of 143 acres.
The data center industry is booming fast in Northern Virginia. Other than property taxes, Prince William County’s primary tax on data centers is the tangible commercial property tax, which is expected to generate $63.4 million in revenue for the current fiscal year.
The industry soon became the center of discussions about land use in the county. The case centered on a 23-year-old policy to restrict development on about 117,000 acres, or about 52% of its land, to no more than one home for every 10 acres with severe restrictions on expanding public sewer lines.
Policies that enacted those protections this year have been weakened by many partisan votes, with Democrats voting together to examine land use issues at the county level rather than just the specific development area.
Comprehensive plan modification requests are usually accepted only at the beginning of the year. However, the county will consider applications outside the normal application period if they relate to certain target industries, one of which is data centers.
Kandland’s decision to join the implementation of the sweeping plan amendment means he must step down from a vote on any data center proposals along Pageland Lane.
A council vote in July began work to amend the long-term land-use designation for those properties in the master plan. He did not have to agree to such a change.
County staff are still reviewing the July request and examining the proposal and its impact on the surrounding area. The council voted to extend screening from only wanted properties to the entirety of Pageland Lane between US 29 and Sudley Road.
Kandland wrote on Facebook that the expansion of the study area tightened his property in the case without the owners asking for it.
Kandland wrote, “With this action…the attack on the Country Crescent was in our front yard, our backyard and every neighbor of ours was facing the same reality of being in the extended study area.” “Now with this threat, homeowners along Pageland Lane are trying to figure out what to do about their biggest investment — their homes. They don’t want to be an island between data centers.”
Ahead of the July vote, Kandland submitted a motion to defer consideration of the motion until the county had finished examining the data center opportunity area overlay area.
“It is too early to start this project at this point,” Kandland said. “We are looking at two parallel operations when one of these operations is under discussion.”
The board voted in May to spend $120,000 to hire a zoning consultant to expand the data center area along high-transmission power lines. The overlay area is currently 10,000 acres allocated in 2016 to support data center development by reducing regulatory hurdles.
The consultant will examine potential areas for area expansion but will also consider necessary changes to building standards, master plan, zoning code and any other impacts from the data centers.
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