Northern Virginia: PW Digital Gateway project: Approval looks likely

Sep 12, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Prince William County planners have recommended the approval of the PW Digital Gateway project, it has been announced. Subsequently, the controversial project is likely to go ahead. If approved, the project would see the rezoning of over 2,000 acres of land for up to 27.6 million square feet of data centers, making it one of the world’s largest concentrations of digital infrastructure. 

The Planning Commission Resolution reads: “The Prince William County Planning Commission does hereby recommend that the Board of County Supervisors adopt Comprehensive Plan Amendment #CPA2021-00004, PW Digital Gateway to the Board of County Supervisors.”

The proposal has been the subject of heated debate since the beginning, with opposing groups such as The Coalition to Protect National Parks and the Rural Crescent, a coalition made up of 11 environmental groups and battlefield protection societies, citing environmental concerns, and The Coalition to Save Historic Thoroughfare, citing the protection of African-American graveyards and cultural sites which they say “represent a unique rural and cultural landscape.”

 Interestingly, many local homeowners and landowners are in favor of the project, with over 200 landowners joining the proposal. Moreover, proponents argue that, while others are protesting that the Gateway will eradicate the area’s ruralness and disrupt its tranquility, that has already come and gone. Their site reads: “We are a united group of longtime landowners and stakeholders whose property values and ruralness have been destroyed by outside forces. Our overarching message is this: PAGELAND IS NO LONGER RURAL. This is due to transmission lines, industrial development around us, the ‘Pageland Autobahn’ of truck and thru traffic to and from Loudoun, and the reality of the new Rt.234 Bypass.” Further to this, the group outlined that they are “tired of being victims of outside special interest groups controlling [their] destiny and have taken proactive steps to create a Win-Win for [themselves] and the county.” They subsequently cite that the project will bring significant capital investment to the area, as much as $30 billion, increasing the county’s budget, and in the long-run benefiting schools, taxes and public services.  

However, while this investment is an attractive possibility, there are fears that data center development will just continue to grow. Gainesville resident Bill Wright, for example, said: “Are we to believe their appetite is unlimited? What other priorities will be subordinate to the insatiable demand of data centers? Are our entire lives hostage to streaming video? Where will our citizens live, work, learn and play if we must all take a back seat to the relentless march of concrete behemoths?”

The staff report outlines: “PW Digital Gateway represents a substantial investment with the potential to propel Prince William County as a leader in the Data Center Industry from a regional, national, and global level. This includes a significant increase in the County’s commercial tax revenue, expansion of an identified targeted industry identified by the Board of County Supervisors, and an opportunity to promote Prince William County as a “high-tech” community.”

The Planning Commission’s public hearing is set to take place at 7 pm on Sept. 14.