Residents in Virginia’s Prince William County have filed a lawsuit against the County’s supervisors over the recent decision to allow more than 25 million sq ft (2.3 million sqm) of data centers to be developed in the county.

Officials last month voted in favor of changing the area's comprehensive plan, which paves the way for more than 25 million sq ft (2.3 million sqm) of data center development under a project known as the PW Digital Gateway. The amendments provide by-right zoning for data centers on the land along Pageland Lane in Manassas.

PW Digital Gateway.png
– Prince William County Planning Commission

InsideNoVA reports Roger Yackel, Roger Miller, and Gainesville Citizens for Smart Growth filed a lawsuit against Prince William’s Board of County Supervisors, Chair Ann Wheeler, and Supervisor Pete Candland.

“[T]he desire of the County to reap funds from the data center industry does not justify the overreaching scope of the [comprehensive plan amendment],” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit, filed this month in Prince William County Circuit Court, combines a number of arguments made against the proposal since it was put forward. It aims to reverse the comprehensive plan amendment and prevent future changes to the plan.

The lawsuit says the board “failed to consider” the proposal’s impact on the environment and nearby Manassas National Battlefield Park or the effects of noise, traffic, and “visual blight” on the surrounding community.

The board “selectively” designated the land for data centers “at the behest of a few homeowners and other vested interests,” acting “contrary to its own adopted master plan and policies,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also says the process was tainted by Candland and Wheeler. Candland was barred from discussing the proposal after signing onto it last November. Opponents of the project have criticized Wheeler for investments in data center companies, which are the subject of a recall effort against her.

No hearings have been scheduled and the county has not submitted a response.

Reports of a PWC Digital Gateway surfaced last year, originally as an 800-acre development later tied to QTS. However, more landowners joined and the proposal expanded to include some 2,133 acres of the county's "rural crescent" for data centers.

Compass and QTS are known to be involved in the project, looking to rezone and develop on around 800 acres each. A letter from NOVEC in a previous staff report suggests the project could total more than 1,000MW.

If fully built out, the Gateway could more than double the county's existing data center footprint and overtake neighboring Loudoun County, with up to 27.6 million square feet of data centers developed. Individual developments would still need planning and rezoning permission; data center developments outside the county’s designated ‘Data Center Overlay Zone’ also need special permission.

A number of local residents and local officials have voiced opposition to the plan, against further developments in the rural area, worries about the potential impact the rezoning could have on the nearby Manassas National Battlefield and other local historical sites as well as the local water table and rural nature of the area.

According to the lawsuit, Gainesville Citizens is a public interest advocacy group that ‘supports sustainable growth in Prince William County’. It says it is made up of resident owners from the neighboring Heritage Hunt community. The group raised a little over $3,000 in a GoFundMe in April 2022.

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