Northern Virginia: Prince William County’s environmental officials reject rural crescent data center plan

Dec 24, 2021 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Recently, Prince William County’s environmental officials announced that they were recommending that the request to replan 2,133-acres in the rural crescent for data centers should be rejected. 

The watershed management division has argued that the replan would be significantly detrimental to the surrounding area. According to Benjamin Eib, assistant chief of the county’s watershed management branch some of the major impacts include “loss of extensive tracts of forest land,” in addition to “dramatic increases” in impervious area, impact to “numerous intermittent and perennial streams, steep slopes with highly erodible soils, wildlife habitat (including habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species) and potential impacts to wetlands.” 

He added: “The development of existing data centers has demonstrated that extensive mass grading and the nearly wholesale clearing and flattening of large parcels is the norm.”

Despite this recommendation, the board of county supervisors could go forward with replanning anyway - however, if this is the case, the division would then recommend “major preservation, buffering and site design strategies” to protect the surrounding area. 

The county will reportedly hold a public input session in 2022 before any solid moves are made. There will then be a public hearing before it is taken to the board of county supervisors. 

Commenting on the proposal, Del. Dan Helmer, D-40th, whose district encompasses western Prince William and Southern Fairfax, recommended officials proceed with extreme caution. Further to this, he said: “The Prince William Digital Gateway stands to be a major economic development opportunity but also would irrevocably transform the character of Northwest Prince William County and may threaten our environment. I also hope the board will reflect deeply on the impact to Manassas National Park, a national treasure.”