The Loudoun County Planning Commission has rejected a data center proposed along Route 28 and the Old Ox Road interchange, close to Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

Reported by Loudoun Now, the proposed "Innovation Gateway" project was for a 425-unit apartment building and 700,000 sq ft (65,030 sqm) of data center space on the 29-acre plot.

– BlackChamber

The data center's developers, Fairfield Residential and BlackChamber Group, argued that the project was on the fringe of the typical Metro planning zone, and the noise from Route 28 would obscure that caused by the data center.

Planning staff recommended denying the application as it said the development was "incompatible" with the nearby "Urban Transit Center" designation, which is described as "dense, urban, walkable, mixed-use and transit-oriented uses" close to Metrorail stations - in this case, the Innovation Station Metrorail stop just one mile from the site.

Commissioners met on February 8 to discuss the project. Concerns were voiced about opening the area to data centers, as it has long been planned for high-density, mixed-use developments. The commissioners praised the development, however, for its demonstration of how data centers and residential developments can be designed with each other in mind.

While commissioners recommended denying the project, it will move to the board of supervisors for a public hearing.

The data center was first proposed in March 2022, three years after the county announced its vision for the "Urban Transit Center." In that initial application, the company argued that the data centers would appear "virtually indistinguishable from office buildings from the exterior," and would generate around $90m in tax revenue across the next 10 years.

But the proposal was, perhaps, doomed to fail from the start, however. In the spring of 2021, another application for a 530,000 sq ft (49,240 sqm) data center, also by BlackChamber, was rejected.

“I am just not comfortable with a data center here,” Supervisor Sylvia Glass said at the time. “I’m just too concerned it will be detrimental to the developments near Metro.” Unfortunately for BlackChamber, it seems the same concerns have stymied this latest proposal.

North Virginia has been looking to limit data center developments of late after concerns have arisen about the proliferation of facilities in the county. In December 2023, the General Assembly's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission announced it would conduct a study into the issue throughout 2024.

Several bills are currently under consideration that will make data center developments more restricted, though others have been tabled or postponed until 2025.