Fairfax County officials want neighboring Prince William County to rethink the proposed “PW Digital Gateway” that would rezone thousands of acres to allow data center developments.

The news comes as PW County’s own finance projects suggest the proposals won’t generate as much tax revenue as previously thought.

Prince William County seal
– Prince William County

The proposals would permit the development of over 27 million square feet of data center uses on over 2,100 acres of land. Though it has increased since, in 2019 PWC said the county had around 5 million sq ft of data center development.

In a letter submitted to PWC – and first reported by Prince William Times – Fairfax officials laid out a series of objections to the land-use change for northwest Prince William County

“Fairfax County staff has significant concerns regarding the impacts that will accrue from adoption of this CPA ( Comprehensive Plan Amendment) and encourages Prince William County to reconsider the proposal,” Fairfax County Officials in the letter, signed by Fairfax Planning Director Barbara Byron.

“We have an overarching concern about the proposal to permit higher density development within the larger Occoquan Watershed due to cumulative impacts on the Reservoir which provides drinking water to a large portion of Northern Virginia,” the letter reads.

Loudoun County officials also replied, but weren’t against the proposals. The county is currently considering its own rezoning proposal that could add another 56 million sq ft of potential data center space if it passes. Officials, however, seemingly aren’t in favor of the idea. Loudoun - the world's biggest hub of data centers - currently has around 26 million sq ft of data centers across the whole county.

Prince William County Deputy Finance Director Tim Leclerc, in a letter to county officials, estimated the Gateway would eventually generate about $400.5 million in local tax revenue annually under current tax rates – not the $700 million the project’s applicants estimate.

He said local tax revenue would also grow slowly, rising from about $9.8 million during its first year of operation, to $204 million in 10 years’ time, and then to about $336.8 million in year 15.

Reports of a PW Digital Gateway surfaced last year. Originally reports had the development billed as a proposal for an 800-acre development; the proposal aimed to string together 30 parcels of agricultural land owned by 15 property owners to be developed by a single unnamed data center developer, recently revealed as QTS.

However, as more than 200 landowners have elected to join the proposal along Pageland Lane, the PW Digital Gateway plan has expanded. The current proposal would replan 2,133 acres of the county's "rural crescent" for data centers. Approval could pave the way for up to 27.6 million square feet of data centers. But, even if the Gateway plan was approved 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.

The proposals have drawn sharp rebuke from local residents and officials, who have voiced concerns over inviting large amounts of new development to a mostly rural area and worry about the potential impact the rezoning could have on the nearby Manassas National Battlefield.

Local officials are yet to vote on the Digital Gateway proposals. A separate study into whether the county should expand its current 'data center overlay district' is also underway.

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