Tuesday, April 18, 2023

QTS /Compass Open House Rescheuduled

On Tuesday evening there will be an open house at Bull Run Middle School and Towne Place Suites in Woodbridge to sell the Digital Gateway Development to the public.  In November the Prince William Board of County Supervisors approved an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan to create PW Digital Gateway a technology corridor of more than 2,100 acres along Pageland Lane for the development of data centers.  To move forward with this project, the land must be rezoned from AE, Agricultural or Estate and ER, Environmental Resource to Technology / Flex (T/F).  After the rezoning, a Special Use Permit (SUP) must be granted.  

We must make a full stop and perform our due diligence. Before we do irreversible harm to the ecology and our regional drinking water supply, we need to look at what the impacts of planned changes will be to the water supply. Prince William County must convene the Occoquan Basin Policy Board and oversee a Comprehensive Study of the proposed land use changes to evaluate their impact on water quality and quantity in the Occoquan Reservoir and our groundwater resources before any further action is taken.

Quality Technology Services (QTS)  tried to hold a Community Open House on the proposed Prince William Digital Gateway at Bull Run Middle School on April 18th in Gainesville as part of the rezoning process. The event was cancelled by the middle school because it was scheduled for the same night as the 6th grade open house. It has been rescheduled for April 25th along with another event in Woodbridge at the Town Place Suites by Marriott. These  events will focus on  QTS's  and Compass rezoning application for approximately 800 acres within the Digital Gateway corridor and allow them to sell it to the public on all the good that data centers bring to our society and what positives data centers could bring to Prince William County. In the printed materials QTS made a big deal about their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) sustainability initiatives, and the fact that they intend to abide by the requirements of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (Bay Act) , a law enacted by Virginia General Assembly in 1988.

The entire plan can be seen here

The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (Bay Act) was enacted by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to protect and improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay through land use management. Since that time there have been several amendments strengthening the Bay Act. The Regulations of the Chesapeake Bay Protection Act require that a vegetated buffer area of at least 100-feet wide be located adjacent to both sides of all water bodies with perennial flow within region. These aquatic features, along with the 100-foot buffer area on each side of all rivers, streams and creeks, are called the Resource Protection Area (RPA) and building within the RPA is forbidden except in very narrow instances. Some of the buffers they intend to maintain are half that width, 50-foot. Not exactly the environmental boon they are promising. The RPAs serve to protect water quality by reducing excess sediment, nutrients, and potentially harmful or toxic substances from groundwater and surface water entering the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The RPA also are essential for meeting the Chesapeake Bay TMDL mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the materials posted online, the rezoning application includes the required by law and regulation landscape buffers, reforestation areas and preservation of environmentally sensitive lands.  According to QTS “Approximately 37% (800 acres) of the 2,133 acres in the corridor have been identified for protection by zoning proffer, covenant, and conservation easement.” Most of this is forested buffers required by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act. There are many perennial stream in the Occoquan Watershed in this area and 100 feet on each side is protected by law, they actually intend to protect less. Other inconvenient or stranded land was included in their buffers. In their literature QTS talks about a land donations to Conway Robinson Forest and Manassas National Battlefield Park (MNBP), but that is not part of the rezoning request. Many promises are made and not followed up on. 

The proposed maintenance of the RPA along the streams

The next 2,300 acres to go

Aside from this first rezoning, in the works is the expansion of the PW Digital Gateway over another 2,300 acres along Sanders Lane to the Loudoun County Line. The PW Digital Gateway would abut the agricultural estates along Sanders Land, so they are proposing another Comprehensive Plan Amendment. Prince William County is not allowing any further Comprehensive Plan Amendments to move forward until after the election in November, but the plan is to move forward right after the winter holidays. Data Center Land Development LLC and assigns is offering 10 acre homeowners in that area $12,500,000 under their term sheet. Live adjacent to PW Digital Gateway or sell out, pretty much an easy decision. Then the next group until Data Centers are too far from the Loudoun data center corridor moving south to meet them. The below image is from the Loudoun County Data Center Land Study. The light and dark green areas are the ones they found suitable for data centers.

from Loudoun County Land Study

They will keep going until the land is no longer desirable. This image of Aldie from CNBC shows what our future holds. Ultimately, a neighborhood will abut every data center. 

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