Loudoun County's board of supervisors is split over a lucrative data center proposal, which could overturn plans to keep part of the tech-infested county for other uses.

BlackChamber Group has applied to build a 530,000 sq ft (49,000 sq m) data center on a vacant plot in Loudoun, which already has the world's highest density of facilities. The proposal has put the supervisors in a quandary as they had their eye on that location for mixed-use buildings including shops and housing, according to a report in Washington Business Journal.

rivana at innovation station.jpg
– Loudoun Economic Development

Take the money?

The proposal, for two buildings on a 23-acre plot on Shaw Road, would be unremarkable elsewhere in Loudoun, but it is within a mile of the Innovation Station metro, near Dulles International Airport, an area which supervisors want to develop for mixed-use buildings.

The plot is just north of Rivana at Innovation Station, a 103-acre mixed-use development championed by Loudoun's Department of Economic Development, and across the street from the old Chantilly Crushed Stone quarry, where another developer wants to build Waterside, a 330-acre development of shops and offices.

Both of these projects are still on the drawing board, and may not be completed for 30 years.

BlackChamber's project offers immediate revenue to the County, but some officials say it would be a poor use of land in a future office and commercial quarter.

“I am just not comfortable with a data center here,” Democrat supervisor Sylvia Glass, who represents the area, told the Journal. “I’m just too concerned it will be detrimental to the developments near Metro.”

For the developers, Ben Wales, a senior urban planner at Cooley LLP, said: “We don’t think this will develop as a residential use for another 30 years yet,” saying it's just too far from the Metro to be attractive.

Wales suggests using the site now, saying it could generate $90 million in taxes over the next decade, while the rest of the area develops. BlackChamber has agreed to a condition that the data center would just be an "interim use" of the site, with notice to stop developing the site after 25 years. The developer is also offering a $265,000 contribution into the county’s affordable housing trust fund and a $50,000 donation to STEM programs at nearby elementary schools.

Supervisors who opposed the proposal warned it could be the thin end of a wedge, with other data centers following into the area: “I don’t know how we can support this application and genuinely attempt to hold any other applicant to our general plan or our comprehensive plan,” said Supervisor Juli Briskman.

The board voted to postpone its decision to a meeting on June 1.