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Data center proposal ‘difficult situation’ for supervisors

RagingWire Data Centers’ Ashburn facility, seen in April, is spread over 150,000 square feet and is part of Loudoun County’s “Data Center Ally.” Times-Mirror File Photo/Beverly Denny
The Loudoun Board of Supervisors' business-friendliness was called into question this week over proposed regulations on one of the county's darling industries, data centers.

Standards within the proposed zoning ordinance amendment – discussed during a Board of Supervisors public hearing Wednesday – included a minimum building height, building facades, noise considerations and screening of parking. The amendment would make data centers “by-right” in districts zoned for office and industrial parks if they meet those standards.

Supervisors eventually sent the item to the board's Transportation and Land Use Committee after hearing from more than a dozen interested citizens – both residents who live near Loudoun data centers and are in favor of the new standards and representatives from the data center industry who expressed distaste with the regulations.

Jonathan Sharpe, the vice president of marketing with Latisys data centers, said the proposals would be an impediment for his company to grow in Loudoun County.

“Data center providers like us are being aggressively courted by rural Virginia and North Carolina, jurisdictions around the country,” Sharpe said. “ … This type of regulation may give us pause beyond the economic climate as we think about where to expand to next.”

“Looking at the [proposed changes], it's hard to reconcile that with being business friendly,” said Jeff Snow with Ardent developers, which has worked closely with data centers.

Brian Fauls, the government affairs manager for the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, said, “The data center industry has enjoyed a strong, collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship with Loudoun County. They have helped enable Loudoun County to thrive and we should be cautious of unintended consequences that could compel these companies to look elsewhere.”

But Walt Purnell, the president of the Regency of Ashburn homeowners association, which is near many of the county's data centers, supported the changes. Purnell said he's alarmed with “egregious” development applications near his residential community.

“We think you need to approve these changes and apply them to applications in process,” he said.

“The noise levels are a significant issue for our tenants,” said Maggie Parker with Comstock developers, which operates the Loudoun Station mixed-use community near some of the data centers.

A corridor in Ashburn is often referenced as “data center ally” because of the industry's robust local presence. Nearly 8 million square feet of data center space is currently housed or in development in Loudoun.

Since 2000, data centers have been allowed to operate within land zoned for more traditional office space. Given data centers' operations can have a substantial impact on surrounding areas, the board of supervisors are looking to define 'data center,' add the use to certain zoning districts and develop performance standards to regulate the use,” according to a Loudoun County staff report.

But as several supervisors noted, the proposed amendment could have unintended consequences and serve the opposite intent of making the county business-friendly.

“This is a difficult situation,” said Chairman Scott York (R-At Large), who pointed out the item initially came forward to help the data center industry with permitting processes. “… I appreciate over time the concerns of impact of one use to another. And hopefully we will be able to come to a situation that is a win-win for everyone involved.”

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Planned Growth is just another term for land rights abuse and More regulation that will choke off growth.  Gott luv Big Guvment.

I’m all for planned growth, its something Loundoun has been very bad at for a long time.  I just want to know that there is a plan and this isn’t just a response to a complaint.  I also want to know that the county understands how datacenters work have have left room for Equinix to grow.  Also if this is a plan what area is the county trying to encourage datacenters to grow at?  Have all the players been encouraged to grow in that area? (power, fiber, etc).

I’m also curious if the county charges property tax on the hardware installed in datacenters.  If so the amount of revenue these places produce can be very large.  Though given the growth I suspect the tax is little. 

I’ll take a revenue generator over more residential any day.

Yes, this article calls out RagingWire and I call out Equinix.  The reason for this is its very common for a company to place their massive server farms at one location, then come together with all other companies at another to trade traffic. That one place where everyone goes to in this area is Equinix, it serves as the seed that allows all the others to grow.

Data Centers are a cash cow for the County because they don’t add to commuter traffic, so less money spent on roads. They don’t employ a ton of people, so less homes, schools, and Government services. And they are a rich source of tax revenue.

Don’t screw over the Data Centers looking to move into Loudoun County to appease a handful of residents at the Regency and elsewhere. If they don’t like it, they can move to Round Hill.

We are being engulfed. 36 acres it is that they want to rezone from Lexington 7 in order to add 240 single dwelling home along with the property on the other side where they want to rezone for 95 more units.

The board should be looking into why land zoned for office use is not being sought after by developers for office use. Data centers are nice because they bring revenue to the county and don’t add much in the way of infrastructural load. But they also don’t add much in the way local professional job opportunities. The land zoned for office is zoned that way because offices are what would be best for the county’s residents to have there.

Why aren’t office developers interested?

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