Northern Virginia: Prince William County’s planning director and deputy resign amid data center controversy

Feb 24, 2023 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Reports reveal that in recent months, a wave of Prince William County planning officials have resigned from their positions just as the data center development controversy heats up. County Planning Director Mark Buenavista, had only been in the job a month, but left his position last week. Similarly, Deputy Planning Director Meika Daus, also announced she would leave in early March. Steven Gardner, a planning manager at the development department, resigned last month, too. 

The resignations come during a crucial time for the data center development discussions, with question marks still in place over the Devlin Technology Park and the John Marshall Technology Park, the latter to be situated near a school for at-risk children. The rezoning review regarding the Prince William Digital Gateway, adjacent to Manassas National Battlefield Park, is perhaps the most contentious development, covered extensively by Baxtel.

Theories developing around the reason for the departures are mainly centered around the pressures placed on officials to comply with the will of the corporations pushing for approval. Kathy Kulick, the vice chair of the HOA Roundtable of Northern Virginia, for example, suggested that the sudden departure of the “three most important public officials in the county planning office” could indicate the conditions under which they were asked to perform their jobs, suggesting these conditions were “unreasonable,” and “unfairly tested their personal ethics and standards.”

 Echoing similar sentiments, Prince William County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, said: “I strongly believe the chair is interfering in planning decisions that should be made objectively based on planning staff’s professional expertise. We have a planning department that is being wrongly influenced by elected officials.