The Prince William County staff are continuing to recommend the denial of all three rezoning requests associated with the PW Digital Gateway data center project, reports Inside Nova.

QTS and Compass, who are proposing to develop thousands of acres of greenfield land in Manassas for a massive data center development, resubmitted their proposal after county staff and the Prince William County staff recommended denial of the site's rezoning request twice in recent months. Last month the planning commission voted to recommend denial of the project ahead of the final vote this week.

PW gateway - Piedmont Environmental Council
– Piedmont Environmental Council

While planning staff are maintaining a recommendation for denial, county supervisors are set to vote again on December 12.

The updated grounds for refusal from county planning staff acknowledge that both QTS and Compass have made efforts to improve aspects of their applications, however, the Digital Gateway project still lacks critical information, has potential environmental consequences, and threatens the county's history.

“At this point, no one truly knows what site challenges will come up that may alter the site layout,” said county staff in a report. “It is possible that enough engineering has been done by the Applicant to know that the site layouts can be met, but that is not demonstrated on the [master plan]. Thus, when it comes time to review and approve the final site plans, the County’s Project Managers are going to do the best they can with what is truly an illustration, in an effort to get some form of conformance.”

In addition, Staff noted that the companies have not included elevations for the 30-odd buildings they are proposing, thus arguing that the developers are giving themselves significant flexibility if the plans are approved. The proposals also did not state where the electrical infrastructure for the project would be located.

Another on-going issue surrounds the Digital Gateway's proximity to the Manassas battlefield. The National Park Service's previous concerns were also cited in the latest report, with Staff arguing that the "proposed rezoning will adversely affect the battlefield and the numerous historic resources outside of the [park] boundary, and the application does not provide sufficient modifications to mitigate the impacts to these resources."

As well as the historic battlefield, the project is close to Conway Robinson State Park and may impact the forest and ecosystem, from issues of flooding, and water quality, to the maintenance of clean air and appropriate habitats for wildlife.

Compass Datacenters said in a statement: "We have received the County Staff report published on December 7 and while we disagree with Staff's conclusion, we appreciate their time and feedback on our amended rezoning application."

Compass added: "We look forward to discussing our application with the Board of County Supervisors at its December 12 meeting, where we will share how our plan aligns with the vision for data center development Prince William County laid out in its Digital Gateway plan adopted last year."

Similarly, QTS has thanked Staff for its work and "diligence."

"The Prince William Digital Gateway will boost tax revenues and support the County’s educational and public safety priorities, and we remain optimistic that the Supervisors understand the value of the project and will ultimately approve the Digital Gateway next week," said QTS in a statement.

The December 12 meeting is set to kick off at 10am local time. Based on previous meetings - a 2022 one that lasted around 13.5 hours, and the November 8 and 9 meeting that continued for 24 hours in total - we can expect it to be a long and complicated discussion.

It is expected that the democrats, which hold the majority in PW County, will vote in favor of the Digital Gateway as it will bring significant tax revenue to the area.