Last night the Board of Supervisors voted, against staff recommendations and strong opposition by citizens, 5-4 to deny a motion by Supervisor Geary Higgins to disapprove the True North data center on the banks of Goose Creek. Supervisors Ron Myer, Matt Letourneau, Kristen Umstattd, Suzanne Volpe, and Koran Saines voted to place the data center, in undisturbed farmland, upstream of the public water intake along Goose Creek, setting a precedent for industrial development of the entire Transition Area.
A second motion by Supervisor Ralph Buona, to send the proposal back to the Transportation and Land Use Committee (TLUC) to address outstanding issues with the proposal, passed 5-4. That motion was supported by Higgins, Phyllis Randall, Tony Buffington, and Saines.
The TLUC meeting will take place at 5 p.m. Wednesday, December 13, before the BOS public hearing. This will enable the BOS to vote at the first rather than the second January board meeting, and that it will probably go back to the full BOS for a final vote on Tuesday, January 2.
Buona, Higgins, Buffington, and Randall made strong arguments in favor of listening to constituents, protecting the Transition Area, suspending such zoning changes until after the Envision Loudoun process was complete, and giving extra weight to issues that directly affect opposing supervisors’ districts.
Those arguments did not work. Letourneau forwarded the “Ashburn is full of data centers and my constituents hate them” argument for putting the “hated” structures in the Transition Area instead (Higgins’s district). Umstattd repeated the assertion that the revenue from the center would go to the schools (which the Board of Supervisors has repeatedly declined to fully fund with any revenue sources for years). Volpe and Saines made no comments to explain their votes in favor of the data center.
Various speakers at the public comments periods in the past several months have focused on the legal and planning precedent this decision sets for Loudoun, but Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition Chair Al Van Huyck focused on another planning precedent: Why should developers pay $1 million an acre for a data center site in “data center alley” when vastly cheaper land (e.g., the True North site) can gain approval elsewhere?
That is to say, any site near power lines in rural areas of the county may conceivably be scouted for lucrative, potential data center sites. Because these centers, with few employees, do not add much traffic to roads, few transportation improvements are needed for such large industrial sites.
Other speakers, supervisors, and Chair Randall, addressed the revenue and “lack of a single large parcel” assertions. The recent Google announcement of the purchase of two parcels for two large data centers (which will roughly cover the area of the True North venture), a number of other currently available sites, and the possibility of building vertically, are reasons to doubt the “no available sites” argument. In addition, Economic Development’s Buddy Rizer stated that a number of other new data centers will be constructed in the coming year. (It was Rizer, however, who “fast-tracked” this application for the Transition Area location.)
An ad hoc committee of the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition has published “Suggestions and Recommendations for Building a Sustainable Rural Community.” The report examines the serious threats to Loudoun’s scenic rural areas and sets forth an action plan for preserving this unique and economically, environmentally and regionally valued portion of the county, and its recommendations focus on improving the rural economy in a way that maintains the quality of life for current residents. The committee, organized in November 2016 by Read More →
“The History of Aldie Village” is a 90-minute presentation set for 5: 30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, at the Aldie United Methodist Church, 39325 John Mosby Highway in Aldie. The presentation will include the general history and Civil War history of the village, and the history of three historic structures Loudoun County plans to demolish to build an 18,000 square foot fire station to serve new housing developments several miles away on the east side of Route 15. The event Read More →
The Loudoun Board of Supervisors will consider at its November 15 meeting a proposal to rezone a parcel next to Goose Creek, a State Scenic River, to allow construction of a large 9-building data center complex. Citizen and citizen group objections include environmental ones (vast addition of impervious surfaces adding runoff to the creek, just upstream of public water intakes, removal of 90% percent of tree cover on the site, which further helps buffer contaminants from entering the water supply, Read More →
An analysis of the thousands of comments by Loudoun County citizens who participated in the Envision Loudoun public input sessions shows overwhelming support for limiting growth (except around the Silver Line stations), addressing traffic congestion, providing better transit and multimodal options, more open space, parkland, and trails. The analysis was conducted by members of the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Comp Plan Review Committee. A summary of their work can be downloaded here. Envision Loudoun. Are the Stakeholders Committee and Read More →
Citizens who make up the Transition Area Alliance have presented a white paper to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to support their position that this planning area should remain a buffer between the suburban east and rural west, as the Comprehensive Plan revision process advances. The Transition Area Alliance advocates for: Maintaining the existing Transition Policy Area and current densities and open space; Using a watershed protection strategy that includes PDRs,development and conservation easements and county land purchases to Read More →
In the 2016 and 2017 General Assembly sessions, Delegate John Bell (Loudoun-87th district) introduced legislation to require Light Emitting Diode (LED) outdoor lighting for all state government entities (the bills did not advance to a full House of Delegates vote either year). While the commitment to energy efficiency is laudable, the proposed legislation failed to incorporate necessary criteria for responsible outdoor lighting in order to prevent the harmful safety, aesthetic, and environmental impacts of low quality LED. The Virginia chapter Read More →
Members of the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition have read and carefully categorized all of the public comments from the first series of Envision Loudoun public input sessions. Read the summary here. Please continue to push your supervisors to support the vision that CITIZENS have articulated. County planners (who are writing the plan) continue to state that thousands of new homes are “needed” in the Transition Area; citizens instead support housing growth along the Silver Line metro stations. Please Read More →
In each of the past several years, to catch up from years of neglect, VDOT committed to a program of intense rehabilitation of a selected group of the most problematic gravel roads in Loudoun County. They named the specific gravel roads to be rehabilitated, and each road got an intense makeover in a short period of time–including brush and tree trimming, ditch and culvert cleaning and rehabilitation, grading, graveling, rolling, and application of dust suppression materials. This has allowed the Read More →