Northern Virginia: Data Center Expansion in Spotsylvania

May 14, 2023 | Posted by Abdul-Rahman Oladimeji

Spotsylvania County officials are planning to capitalize on data center building expansion. They are modifying the county's Comprehensive Plan as part of their efforts. The county Planning Commission scheduled data center-specific Comprehensive Plan amendment public hearings Wednesday night after a staff presentation. In the year's first half, county authorities have been learning about data centers as developers express interest in creating large facilities that hold computer servers for online firms and cloud computing. County Planning Director Kimberly Pomatto told the planning committee Wednesday that they are new to the data center lifestyle and have done a lot of research and site visits. She said the Comprehensive Plan revisions would give the county "the measuring stick that staff uses" to evaluate data center projects.

The Board approved a rezoning for a future data center development of Supervisors in March. As a result of that rezoning, a developer will be able to erect a "techno campus" on 314 acres of land in Thornburg, Virginia, between U.S. 1 and Interstate 95. The plan calls for a 2.9 million square foot "corporate technology campus" to be built on land that borders U.S. 1, Riverview Elementary, Thornburg Middle, Hickory Ridge Road, and North Roxbury Mill Road, north of the Mudd Tavern and Morris Road intersection. Residents, the Board of Supervisors, and the Planning Commission objected during the campus hearings. The Comprehensive Plan modifications address traffic impacts, noise reduction, data center sound studies, buffer zones, and water-based cooling system alternatives.

The revisions stress data centers as "an economic development interest" and seek "data center-centric land use policies." Due to their high electricity demand, the county seeks to revise the ordinances to keep data centers within one mile of its core development border and near power lines. Pomatto said the Comprehensive Plan modifications offer the county the most teeth during data center proposal enabling.