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The county’s watershed division submitted comments Dec. 10, as part a standard agency review of the comprehensive plan amendment application, known as the “PW Digital Gateway.”

Major impacts include the loss of large tracts of forest land and dramatic increases in impervious areas, impact on many intermittent and perennial streams and steep slopes with highly-erodible soils. There are also potential impacts to wildlife habitat (including habitats for rare, endangered and threatened species), and potential impacts to wetlands. Benjamin Eib, assistant chief, county’s watershed management branch, stated that these could be major impacts. … It has been shown that mass grading and the wholesale clearing and flattening large parcels of land is the norm in the development of existing data centres.



Gainesville Crossing data center clear-cutting

This aerial photo shows an area near Interstate 66/Pageland Lane that was already cleared for data centers in the “Gainesville crossing” data center development. It was approved by the former Prince William Board of County Supervisors in 2019.




The watershed management department recommends that the county keep the existing comprehensive plan unchanged.

Eib said that if the board decides to approve the application, Eib would like the division to implement major preservation and buffering strategies and site design strategies in order to lessen the environmental and visual adverse effects. This would include the 200-foot extension and expansion of buffers for trees in protected forests, historic resources, roads, and areas surrounding wildlife corridors, streams, and wetlands.

Commentaries have been posted by the transportation, archeology, parks, recreation, and tourism departments.

Justin Patton, County Archaeologist, stated that the gateway plan and any associated rezonings for data centers are likely to negatively impact cultural resources in the region. Patton recommended that 100-plus acres of the application be kept under the current agricultural land-use designation (A-1), to protect them from future data center development.

Patton stated that Agricultural designations are less destructive to battlefield resources, the battlefield viewshed, and the battlefield viewshed than data centre use.

The final decision about whether or not the gateway plan is approved rests with the board of supervisors. The plan will still need to be reviewed by the county agencies. The county plans to hold a public input session in the early part of next year before officially recommending that the application is approved or denied by planning staff. It will then be sent to the planning commissioner for a public hearing and finally to board of county supervisors. There are no dates yet for the public information session nor the required public hearings.



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From pasture to powerlinesWestern Prince William landowners requesting that their rural land be replanted for data centres point to existing transmission lines which have already diminished the area’s rural character.




Numerous homeowners who live in the Pageland Lane corridor, which is adjacent to Manassas National Battlefield Park, are contacting county supervisors Change the land-use classification on their propertiesData centers can be used for agricultural purposes. If approved, CPA would replan 27.6 millions square feet of data centers near Conway Robinson State Forest and Manassas Battlefield National Park.

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Several residential communities arenearthe 800 acres pitched for new data center development, as seen here in an aerial photo included in theland-useapplication filed by property owners.




The proposal is located within the county’s Rural Crescent, a 117,000-acre area in southern Prince William County that was created in 1998. It is restricted to residential, commercial, or industrial development.

Virginia state House delegate and county supervisors from western Prince William County are concerned that the gateway will have a negative affect on their constituents. The plan has received support from supervisors from the eastern county, who live far from proposed development site.

Del. Danica Roem (D-13th) and Jeanine Lawson (R-Brentsville), who represent western Prince William, each stated their. Firm oppositionThey were able to contribute to the development. They were able to hold a Joint town hallThey met at Heritage Hunt, a Gainesville 55+ community, Dec. 15 in order to rally their constituents against this plan.

Del. Dan Helmer (D-40th), whose district includes western Prince William and south Fairfax, wrote a December letter to the board asking them to proceed with the proposal with extreme caution. In his December letter, Dan Helmer raised concerns about the proposal’s effect on the environment, Manassas National Battlefield Park as well as the rural character of the region.

Helmer said that while the Prince William Digital Gateway represents a major opportunity for economic development, it could also irrevocably alter the character and environment of Northwest Prince William County. … I also hope that the board will take time to reflect on the impact of Manassas National Park. It is a national treasure.

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