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MORE: Loudoun supervisors send Goose Creek data center proposal to committee for further review

Dallas-based Compass Datacenters’ 750,000-square-foot data center is proposed for the west side of the Goose Creek between Sycolin Road and the Dulles Greenway.
Loudoun's Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday night to send a rezoning application for a 750,000-square-foot data center in the county's transition policy area to committee to make additional changes to the application.

The controversial data center proposal near one of the county's main water sources, Goose Creek, has drawn sharp opposition from local environmental groups. The county's transition policy area is meant to serve as a buffer zone between suburban east and rural west.

The Dallas-based applicant, Compass Datacenters, is seeking to rezone 106 acres in the transition policy area to build the facility. The company has argued the data center would generate more than $22 million of additional tax revenue for the county and use just 130,000 gallons of water annually, as opposed to others that use about 18 million gallons of water per year.

The board voted to send application to the board's Transportation and Land Use Committee for review after a motion brought forward by Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) to deny the application failed 4-5, with Supervisors Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run), Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg), Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Koran Saines (D-Sterling) opposed.

Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large), Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) and Supervisors Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Higgins voted to deny the application.

Ahead of the vote, Randall said the board received 380 emails from constituents opposed to the facility.

More than a dozen local residents attended the board's business meeting Tuesday night to oppose the proposal.

The community addressed supervisors about the precedent they feared the facility would set in the area allowing for similar proposals. Citizens also called on the board to wait for the county’s two-year Envision Loudoun process to run its course before making a decision on the application. Envision Loudoun is part of the county's new comprehensive plan.

A debate on whether to deny the application ignited passionate opinions from supervisors for and against the proposal.

“If this item passes tonight, I would say this will possibly be the worst vote this or any other board has ever taken,” Higgins said. “If we are shortsighted enough to pass this, we have the capacity to do even dumber things.”

Higgins referenced an unnamed prospective data center client that considered the same Goose Creek site for its facility, but later decided it was not the right area for a data center.

The Catoctin supervisor said the company eventually went on to chose two sites in the county where data centers are permitted. He called the client “good neighbors.”

Last week, tech giant Google announced it had purchased 148 acres of land in Loudoun for $70 million to build two new data centers.

Compass, represented by land-use attorney Colleen Gillis, previously told the county that if the company did not move forward with its data center plan, they could develop 10 homes on the site -- a plan they said would be more harmful to the water supply and Goose Creek than the data center proposal.

Loudoun County Economic Development Director Buddy Rizer told supervisors that there was no other usable data center site large enough to house a facility of True North’s size.

When pressed by Randall, Rizer also said there were still several data centers in the county’s pipeline for consideration and that rejecting one data center would not necessarily harm Loudoun’s data center market.

“The nine of us are very smart, committed people, but we are not the only smart committed people in the county,” Randall said. “And we have this many people coming to us and talking about this, and we’re supposed to be the servants of the people. How dare us decide that we know better than all of these people, how dare us. Who do we think we are? We serve them. And in this case, it’s possible that five of us have decided that the voice of the people does not matter.”

But despite pleas from the community, environmental groups and supervisors who represent the area the proposed facility sits, opposing board members said they could not look past the additional tax revenue the data center would bring to the county.

“This is a very large single-user, potentially double user [data center] … this is not a co-located type of data center where there’s a whole bunch of different tenants,” Supervisor Matt Letourneau said. “This is a different type of project, and that’s one of the reasons why there are substantial proffers to this project. It is not like some of the other data centers that we have in the county, and it could not fit in the other spaces that we have in the county.”

“So let’s make it very clear that a no vote says no to the tax revenue,” Letourneau added.

Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) said she did not think it was a bad deal for the county because it benefited Loudoun’s overcrowded schools.

“When I look at the fact that our schools remain overcrowded … and you have to scoot around the edge of the room to find space because the kids are jammed in, and this is $22 million a year for our children, I cannot say this is bad deal for Loudoun County,” Umstattd said.

Following the vote, some said they remain optimistic the board may change course after its upcoming committee meeting, while others were less hopeful.

“There’s always a chance that things could change and you can get more information to shed light on a situation, and so as long as there wasn’t an outright denial tonight, I will hold out a little hope,” said Piedmont Environmental Council Loudoun Field Representative Gem Bingol.

Lovettsville resident Tina Cheatham said she was disappointed in the board for its vote.

“I’m very disappointed about this particular vote because the transition policy area is supposed to be just that, the transition between the suburbs and the rural area,” Cheatham said.

Because the proposal was sent to the board’s TLUC committee, it will still need to come back to the full board for consideration at a future board meeting.

The application has been tentatively scheduled to be considered during a special TLUC meeting the board plans to hold Dec. 13 at 5 p.m. before its public hearing an hour later.

Comments


I thought that area was planned for a data center any way.  Stonewall ?  Right next to the power plant.  What is the big deal about getting some business tax revenue?  We homeowners pay enough.


We do not need 22 million at the expense of the mafic barren. Chris says the barren is everywhere yet scientists tell him otherwise. This property is worthless for houses because of water and other infrastructure hookups so the owners try and screw the citizens of Loudoun for their bad choice of property.


BunkerTime,

To answer your question…Yes, the current political climate has absolutely made people insane.


How is it that opinions on data centers in Loudoun is a partisan issue?  Has the current political climate made people insane?


AreYouKidding, I understand the tax rate on those servers is about 4% (correct me if I am wrong).  Similar tax rates in Richmond are about one-fourth of that.  We could begin to lose out to other regions on future data centers and would lose 100% of the taxes just like the auto manufacturers moved to lower cost Southern states and crippled Detroit, Lansing, Ohio, etc.

But my main point is that tax revenue is not money from the heavens which Supervisors can give out to their political supporters.  We should only raise enough tax revenue as needed.  If there is a surge of tax revenue, it shouldn’t be immediately spent.  The excess should be returned to the rightful owners, BOTH residents and businesses.

I realize you believe businesses merely exist so that your corrupt politicians can confiscate their property (money) and give it via handouts to you and all the freeloaders out there, but that is not what this country was founded on.  Those businesses are merely a collection of residents who are doing something productive with their time and assets.  Ever think about trying that?


My heartburn with this issue is primarily with the invocation of “The Children” as a lever to push this deal through, just like “the plight of low income people” is being used to push for increased housing density.

LCPS has spent how much? $5 MILLION (?) in the last two years to put in professional quality synthetic turf fields and press boxes.  So BOS, don’t cry to me about how the schools are underfunded in order to justify your self-serving decisions when the schools have enough extra pocket change to spend millions of dollars on plastic grass.

A Texas high school just built a $72 million football stadium. I have no doubt that this insanity is coming to our county too, because taxpayers just can’t say “no” to ‘the children’.


Hey Ralph, we will trade you a no vote on the data center for a no vote on the Potomac Bridge, Broad Run Farms!


If liberals aren’t fussing about data centers, they would be fussing about the land being used for McMansions the average family can’t afford.

Development WILL happen so long as land owners can sell out to the highest bidder that has a use for their land beyond cows and horses. That development will either be Tract Housing, Retail, or Commercial. Right now, data centers are the highest bidders on the commercial side, which is the best option. Unless you want to see thousands of homes pouring vehicles onto area roads or new schools for the children living in those homes (funded by raising your taxes).

Data Centers don’t cost the government anything, while paying millions in taxes. The protestors against data centers just don’t realize how good Loudoun has it as the nexus of Cheap Electricity, NatGas, Land, Fiber networks, halls of political power, and so on.

If you don’t like it, move to Lee County, VA. You’ll have all the trees and grass your heart desires.


You get what you vote for….and LoCo voted to put clueless, stupid out of touch people who are supposed to represent the citizens of Loudoun County…not Dallas Texas…what is wrong with you? What is the rush to approve yet another data center? You BOS who vote for this should be ashamed of yourselves…take care of your neighbors…stop citing tax dollars….the traffic and utility infrastructure needed will eat up any gain in taxes…shame on you!!


Virginia SGP,

“Btw, the tax dollars should NOT be shoveled into the never-ending hole that is LCPS.  It should be returned to the taxpayers, either residents paying real estate tax or the businesses paying tax on their equipment.”

So you are proposing we take the tax dollars from data centers, which is comprised mostly from property tax paid by the business that have equipment located in them, and then return the money to business paying taxes on equipment.  Sounds perfect, I don’t see any flaw with that plan.


So between the LCPS operations budget, their debt servicing and their capital improvement program, 67% of your tax money goes to the schools.  I believe that equates to about $760 MILLION for 2018.  And it will _never_be_enough_.

Total funding for LCPS (county, state, federal, etc) in 2018 is $1,155,937,019.  More than a BILLION DOLLARS a year, or $14,594 PER student.  That’s not including debt payments or capital expenditures.

Guys, listen. If we don’t pave over a few county parks or re-zone the transition policy area for this data center it may mean that “the children” will have to forgo a few million dollar synthetic turf fields or a few $700,000 press boxes at the football stadium(s).

The HUMANITY.

Do you need a tissue yet?  Really tugs at the heart strings, doesn’t it?


“Laugh” is now poking at his fellow Democrat Phyllis Randall because she took a vote OPPOSITE Umstattd?  This is really outrageous.  Calling her “snarky”?  Takes my breath away when Umstattd is the queen of political cynicism and self presevation


Let those who sing the praises of data centers give us some facts that prove they’re a good deal for the county and by extension, Loudoun citizens.  That would be a change and an improvement over non-stop, fact-free, seat-of-the-pants analysis.


Data centers are great, in the right place. The water intake is north of the site, at Loudoun Water. A vote against the data center was not a vote against the schools; there are many ways to fund the schools, if a majority of the supervisors would vote for them.


These data centers are great.  Low traffic, high tax revenues, more incentive for tech companies to locate here.

The enviro-nazi’s seem confused.  They are just too happy to go online and post on these boards but don’t seem to understand that requires data centers.  We all know they aren’t really concerned about the environment.  It’s just a bunch of rich, entitled folks who bought “gentlemen farms” in western Loudoun, get massive unjustified tax breaks for “farming”,  and then want to restrict the land rights of everyone else.  I think what we really need is a prize to the most aesthetically pleasing data center.  I have a few in mind.

Btw, the tax dollars should NOT be shoveled into the never-ending hole that is LCPS.  It should be returned to the taxpayers, either residents paying real estate tax or the businesses paying tax on their equipment.  Extra revenue doesn’t mean it’s an extra Christmas for all the freeloaders.


Laugh, you’re such a Umstattd schill and here you try and deflect from her vote as much as possible.

We need to cut the trees and dirty the water FOR THE CHILDREN!!!!  Yeah, that’s a really logical rationale from the normally rational Umstattd.  But you know as well as I that she is very friendly to developers.  I’m sure she’d like to get rid of the slice of Transition Zone between Leesburg and blob to the east, hyper-develop the Leesburg area, and then flip Leesburg to a City for even more power, power, power for her and her council buddies.


To “loudounconservative”: I think you’re missing the point. I, along with many others who oppose the True North Data Center, are not against DataCenters. I am not against DataCenters in Loudoun County. What I, and many others I’ve spoken with, are against, is continued urban/suburban sprawl and encroachment into Western Loudoun with disregard for zoning established specifically for the purpose of preserving a delicate balance in the county. You make some valid points for THIS project, but now you are missing the forest for the trees. As I mentioned, this sets a new precedent for re-zoning, and developers are licking their chops. I would not be surprised to see areas of the county zoned for light residential to be re-zoned as new Brambletons. Now you’re talking about an area that was intended to have say, 300 homes, increased to 3000 to allow for multifamily housing, low-income housing, etc. Then of course you need more shopping centers and strip malls, because where else will these 3000 people get their groceries? Then you have infrastructure issues, need to fund more schools, etc. All of the things that you say this Data Center will prevent will become worse as a result of future disregard for the established TPA and rural boundaries. If current boundaries are not recognized, where does this stop? West Virginia?


LTM, thanks for the update.  It makes it even more clear that there is a great disconnect between some of the supervisors, and reality.  Supervisor Letourneau has it right.  This project would bring in a huge amount of taxes each year, to pay for things like our schools.  The sad thing, continues to be Chair Randall and Supervisor Higgins’ deceptive statements.  Chair Randall wants us to believe that she, and she alone, speaks for all of us. However, Chair Randall does not speak for me, nor does she, clearly, speak for the 70,000 plus school aged children in this County.  And Supervisor Higgins hasn’t seen a house he doesn’t love, and has voted for thousands of new residential growth in this County.  And I suspect his goal is tens of thousands more houses in the County. Chair Randall is becoming a great disappointment, and I would think that, like so many elected officials who clearly let a sense of power go to their heads, Chair Randall suffers from this, and her term may end up a single one, come election time.  I know, that I would not vote for her.


Where is water drawn from Goose Creek for resident use?


Yep, Loudoun schools failing because not enough funding…..The sky is falling, we’ve heard this the past 10-20 years on school budget, yet LCPS finish near the top in grades/test scores/graduation rates/scholarship awards….LAUGH!


The aggressive non-factual threats by eco-citizens that desire to eliminate buyers land use rights, ecological coercion about political concern over Goose Creek, noise, etc. plus the BOS that opposed True North simply do not know and understand the existing governance by-laws that are already in place that allow permitted uses such as data centers within the Transition District Regulations.  The rhetoric needs to stop!  Stick to the facts and not the emotions.  The True North Data Center is more complementary within the Transition District Regulations than adding more cars from houses (lawn fertilizer), more schools (academy of science; that will generate more net new cars, diesel buses), heavy traffic from the Dulles Greenway, etc.  Similar industrial uses are adjacent to the tangent and to north of True North Data Center and adjacent / close proximity to Goose Creek and residential housing.  Data centers are by far the highest and best use of land that offers great benefits to all Loudoun, i) total overall low impact versus any other industry, ii) high source of tax revenues, iii) quality skilled jobs, iv) stable overall economic development, and iv) no need for governmental social services. 


Amazing how 57% of every dollar taxed is used for schools is not enough for some people.


Children, who year after year see the republican majority vote to not adequately pay for good schools.


Wow, this sets a terrible precedent for rezoning applications going forward. Goodbye TPA, Western Loudoun you’re next. Any time someone says “this is a one time thing” or this is an “exception to the rule” are trying to pull the wool over your eyes until the next project comes up. Most of those who voted for the data center already live in strip mall central in the far east of the county, and could not care less about those who appreciate the balance and beauty of Loudoun. The TPA was zoned for a reason folks, and the constituents are against this… Hopefully Latourneu, Volpe, Saines, etc. get voted out for not listening to the people they represent.


When will the local environmentalists realize that the Democrats only use you to get their votes? 

Until environmentalists start running environmental (i.e. Green) candidates, Democrats will keep taking your vote and giving you the shaft like they did right here.


I am already sickened by the sight of the massive power poles being erected along route 50 to support the poorly placed data centers (like the one between Dominion Saddlery and the South Riding residential community right).  These giant boxes sucking down electricity and spewing steam in the air as they gargle massive amounts of our water are a nightmare that needs to be stopped now.

A BOS with any integrity would have sited these monsters around Dulles airport instead of putting houses there.


Among the disappointing arguments in favor of opening up to industrial development the rural area protecting Loudoun’s public watershed (which serves the eastern half of the county) was the specious one by Supervisor Umstattd that we need a data center next to a state scenic river so that the schools could be fully funded. The ONLY thing between the BOS fully funding the schools, and fully funding the schools, is the BOS (which has many funding mechanisms at its command). The argument made by Letourneau was that Ashburn is full of data centers and his constituents hate them, so the “hateful” data centers should be placed in somebody else’s district—instead of, for example, increasing buffers, visual and noise protection, and siting requirements in his district. But that would be “regulation.” Letourneau also made the argument that because past Boards of Supervisors have approved CPAM after ZOAM after CPAM after ZOAM in violation of the Comprehensive Plan, gutting it from within, anyone arguing that the county should follow its comprehensive plan has no grounds to argue. Neither Supervisor Saines or Volpe gave any reasons for their votes to set an irreversible precedent for the Transition Area, or any cheap plot of land next to power lines that a speculator can lay hands on in the future.


The closeness to Goose Creek needs to be strongly researched before agreeing to this mess. Period. BOS has always been pawns for developer piggybanks


This is the start of the creep to the west. This BOS along with past BOS cannot say no to developers or anyone who brings money into the County. It’s now up to the Residents of the areas nearby to speak up before every tree is cut down and your commute is data centers to the left, data centers to the right.


People need to make peace with the reality that this area is NOT going to stay green indefinitely.  The people who actually own the land don’t want to just sit on it.

So its time to decide, do you want industry/commercial development or more houses.
Those are the only 2 realistic options.


Keep up the good work. The more data centers, the better. Having thousands of homes is an infrastructure nightmare (Police, Fire, Schools, Roads, etc). Data Centers pour money into the County Treasury and use next to zero Government services.


I’d like to commend everyone (it was well more than a dozen) for coming out last night and speaking against this project.  It’s unfortunate that five of the Supervisors were so willing to go against what their constituents and the residents of Loudoun very clearly wanted.

I’d like to note that, perhaps, if the BOS stopped perpetually lowering the assessment rates, maybe they wouldn’t be in desperate need of the $22M they’ve been told they would receive from this project. 

I would happily pay more in personal property taxes if it meant the BOS stopped approving the development of every available parcel of land in the county.


From what I saw, those who voted to allow the data center to continue to be considered, rather than be denied, actually are right on point on this one.  Yes, let us take care of citizens who are here now.  Children.  Children who attend our public schools here in Loudoun County.  Children, who year after year see the republican majority vote to not adequately pay for good schools.  And sadly, we also now have Chair Randall doing the same thing the republican majority is doing.  Chair Randall’s snarky comments and her vote clearly shows she has no intention to adequately fund for our public schools (and yes, I have no doubt Chair Randall will cry out loudly she wants to adequately fund our public schools, but we now see she does not believe in that, and will not take the actions to allow for that).  So, yes, let us all fear those like skyprince, who will sacrifice our children and their education.


Enough is enough..put a stop to out of state interests making LoCo their private piggy bank and play toy…BOS…grow a set of you know what and vote this down…take care of the citizens who are here now…and stop playing God!!

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