The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted to create a 10,000 acre ‘Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District’ in the county, to direct the placement of future data centers and electric substations.
The idea comes after the drawn out battle between Haymarket residents and Dominion Power, over a project to create a 230 kilovolt power line, to provide enough electricity for a data center Amazon is planning to put in Haymarket.
Last year, the board of supervisors passed a resolution, which along with stating that only the proposed underground hybrid route for the Haymarket project was acceptable to the board, also expressed the board’s intent to put forth a zoning text amendment for future projects, like the Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District, according to Director at Prince William County Planning Office Chris Price.
“The Opportunity Zone Overlay District was created with the intent to match the areas that are appropriately zoned and planned for data centers with that power infrastructure. We picked the Opportunity Zone because unlike any other alternative…it is the most protective for communities and the most business-friendly toward the industry,” said Price.
The new district would limit construction of data centers and similar targeted industry businesses to the allotted 10,000 acres, unless a business obtains a special use permit (SUP) to locate elsewhere. The 10,000 acres in the county is comprised of all of the industrial, office, and commercial zoning districts in Prince William, according to a release.
By approving the new district, the goal is to establish data centers where the infrastructure is already in place, and to minimize the impact on county homeowners, which was not the case with the Haymarket data center plans.
“10,000 acres is a lot of land, and I think what this does…is that it provides certainty. It provides a certain level of certainty, and businesses want certainty. Right now I think that there’s a misconception floating out there that this board is somehow anti-data centers. No, we’re absolutely not against data centers. We want data centers here…but we want them in the right places,” said Supervisor Pete Candland.
In additional to funneling data centers and similar targeted industry businesses to the 10,000 acres, the district would create an expedited review process to get the projects moving more quickly, stated a release.
Jason Grant, Communications Director for the county, stated that while the process will be expedited, citizens will still have the same opportunity to comment about new county data center projects.
“The staff time required will be expedited to bring the project to the Planning Commission and Board sooner. The citizens will have the same opportunities for comment,” stated Grant.
Data centers are big business in Prince William County. According to a county release, over the past five years, 370 new jobs and $2.4 billion in capital investment was brought to the county by new data centers.
“The most significant revenue generator on data centers comes from the fact that the servers are taxed as business personal property,” stated Grant.
Executive Director for the Department of Economic Development Jeff Kaczmarek stated that the business community felt a lot of uncertainty coming from the county, and that establishing the Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District would create some certainty for those businesses.
“What [businesses] want to know is that the Prince William County Board of Supervisors will make a decision, and stick with it – and stay the course, so they can plan their business. We have a lot of potential opportunity here in front of us, in terms of future data centers and we want to protect that,” said Kaczmarek.
Grant did not identify any companies that have recently expressed an interest in putting a data center in Prince William, but did state, “We have a number of data center clients in Prince William and are making certain we position ourselves for continued growth opportunities.”
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