Northern Virginia: Prince William board votes to approve PW Digital Gateway

Nov 07, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

After months of protests and deliberation, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a change to the county's comprehensive plan to allow a controversial data center development on the Digital Gateway lands. This vote of 5-2 permits 27 million square feet of data center space, and came after 9.5 hours of heated public comment by over 200 citizens. 

Financial analysis by county staff projects that the approval could result in $25 billion in new investment and $400 million in annual tax revenue into Prince William County. Already, Compass Datacenters and QTS Data Centers have submitted proposals for data center developments and are looking to rezone and develop on around 800 acres each, with some reports that the project could total over 1,000MW. Moreover, with Loudoun County facing delays to construction due to localized transmission constraints on the Dominion Energy grid, Prince County is now pegged to attract a lot more data center deals. 

Supervisor Victor Angry, representing the Neabsco District and Ann Wheeler, the Board Chair At-Large, both voted in support of the Digital Gateway, arguing that it was a “good project” for Prince William County due to its economic benefits. Wheeler added: “There's not any room left in the Overlay District. There's protections for the battlefield. This is a bold decision, and we need to work together.” However, opposing the change were Supervisors Janine Lawson and Yesli Vega, the former of which called the plan “short-sighted” and warned it would “wreak havoc” on the environment, the county’s history, and community, “all to appease big tech and a small group of landowners." Vega, on the other hand, raised concerns about the lack of transparency around the process, citing that there were still too many uncertainties around the impact of the project. 

Speaking about the decision, Chris Curtis, SVP of Development and Acquisitions for Compass Datacenters, said: "As this process moves to the next phase, Compass Datacenters is committed to being a good neighbor and working through the County's zoning process to solicit input and feedback stakeholders on our construction and operating plans.”

Meanwhile, a company spokesperson for QTS Data Centers added: "QTS is pleased that the Prince William County Board of Supervisors recognizes the compelling economic and community benefits of the Digital Gateway project and has approved the proposal to move forward. We are eager to continue working with stakeholders and members of the community to make this project a reality and help Prince William County continue to flourish."  

The vote undoubtedly stirred up tension within the community during the lead-up to the vote and throughout, and many are still in opposition to the controversial plan. However, considering that ​​the Prince William County Planning Commission voted 4-3-1 to recommend approval of the first application back in September, many saw the result of the vote coming. 

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