Prince William County officials have voted in favor of the PW Digital Gateway data center project in Manassas, Virginia, after another marathon 24-hour public meeting.

QTS and Compassare proposing to develop thousands of acres of greenfield land in Manassas for a massive data center development. The two companies were applying to rezone the land to allow for data centers.

PW gateway - Piedmont Environmental Council
– Piedmont Environmental Council

Supervisors voted 4-3 in favor of the project, representing the next step in the multi-million sq ft project. Supervisors Wheeler, Bailey, Franklin, and Angry voted in favor; Supervisors Weir, Lawson, and Vega voted against. Democratic Supervisor Kenny Boddye of the Occoquan District abstained.

This week’s meeting came after Prince William County staff recommended the 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 by the County Board of Supervisors.

As has been the case throughout this project, this was another marathon meeting, running more than 27 hours from 10am December 12 into the late morning of December 13. The meeting had started earlier than normal in the hope of avoiding another overnight meeting.

More than 100 people spoke in person and online – many in favor and many against. As has been throughout this process, those in favor cited the tax benefits the data centers would bring to the County while those against spoke of concerns around the environmental impact along with the impact on a largely rural area adjacent to a historic battlefield.

After the public speaking was done, the companies added further proffers to the development, including offering more public space, and a number of other changes. The companies came under criticism from the board for making changes so late in the process after such a long meeting.

Supervisor Robert Weir described it as “unreasonable” behavior by the companies.

Reports of a PW Digital Gateway surfaced in 2021, originally as an 800-acre development later tied to QTS. However, more landowners joined and the proposal expanded, to one that would turn some 2,133 acres of the county's "rural crescent" over to data centers.

In total, QTS is aiming to develop around 11.3 million gross square feet (1.05 million sqm) of data center space, while Compass aims to develop up to 11.55 million sq ft (1.07 million sqm) of data center space.

This project has a history of creating long public meetings. Twelve months ago, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of changing the comprehensive plan to pave the way for the Gateway project. The meeting began at 7.30pm local time and continued until after 9am the next day. Local news reported more than 250 registered to speak during the marathon meeting. Some 40 people spoke remotely via Internet calls, which were taken after around 5am. The meeting didn't finish until 8am local time.

"The community fought hard and although we lost this huge battle the fight is not over," Julie Bolthouse, project critic and director of land use at Piedmont Environmental Council, said following the latest vote.

"We will continue to shine a spotlight on this industry's impact on our air, water, public lands, and utility bills until our elected officials finally decide to stop this runaway train."

A QTS spokesperson told DCD: “QTS is grateful to Prince William County and the Board of Supervisors for entrusting us with stewardship of the Prince William Digital Gateway. QTS will continue to work diligently with County staff, elected officials, and residents as it carries out its environmental and responsible development commitments.”