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Loudoun supervisors to consider 750,000-square-foot data center proposal in transition area

Dallas-based Compass Datacenters is proposing to build a 750,000-square-foot data center on the west side of the Goose Creek between Sycolin Road and the Dulles Greenway.
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday will consider a rezoning request to build a 750,000-square-foot data center along the west side of Goose Creek in the county’s transition policy area (TPA).

If approved, True North Data, which would sit on a property between Sycolin Road and the Dulles Greenway, would be the second data center within the TPA, next to Stonewall Business Park -- a site that includes 3.9 million square feet of data center and office uses.

The Planning Commission has been considering the proposal from Dallas-based Compass Datacenters since September. The commission has received strong pushback from neighboring residents, environmental groups, several supervisors and county planning staff.

County planning staff does not support the company’s request to rezone 105.6 acres from transitional residential to planned development office park. Staff says the proposal is inconsistent with the current Comprehensive Plan.

Meanwhile, residents and environmental groups have warned the county that, if approved, the development could harm Loudoun’s public drinking water, the wildlife in the scenic area and cause additional traffic on Sycolin Road.

Consideration of the proposal comes as the county is in the midst of a two-year Envision Loudoun public process to write Loudoun’s new Comprehensive Plan.

The process is being largely led by a 26-member stakeholder team, which has been debating whether to allow additional residential and industrial development in Loudoun’s transition area.

For years, many have staunchly resisted additional growth in the TPA -- an area that serves as a buffer between the county’s suburban east and rural west.

So far, however, a majority of stakeholders have indicated they would like to see more light industrial use and possibly residential in the TPA area in the new Comprehensive Plan

“One thing that also hasn’t gotten mentioned is Goose Creek – downstream is the intake for public water,” said Piedmont Environmental Council’s Loudoun Field Representative Gem Bingol at a recent Planning Commission meeting.

Bingol, who also serves on the county’s stakeholder team, warned that if the data center proposal was approved before the Envision Loudoun process was finished, the county would have ignored the concerns from the public around further developing the TPA.

“If you’re going to say that your public opinion is important, and then decide to change this area and preempt what would happen here potentially, as a result of a long deliberation, then I think you might as well just say, ‘Public, we don’t care what you have to say,’” Bingol said.

Land use attorney Colleen Gillis with Cooley LLP said that, if approved, the company could build the data center by next summer.

Gillis argued Compass’ proposal would be different than the well-known data centers about five miles away in Loudoun’s “data center alley.” The biggest difference, she said, is that the facility would only use about 130,000 gallons of water annually compared to similar data centers of the same size that use roughly 18 million gallons of water per year.

“When you look at it all together, the tax revenue, how environmentally sensitive the project is, how we’re providing protection to the Goose Creek … low and no impact to transportation infrastructure, schools, providing improvements to Sycolin Road, and we’re seamlessly integrating this within the environment around us -- we think that this makes a lot of sense,” Gillis said.

Still, some supervisors and planning commissioners who represent the area the proposal is in remain opposed.

Since September, planning commissioners from the Catoctin, Leesburg and Sterling districts have opposed the proposal.

“I do appreciate Compass, I just think this is a wrong location, and I think if we keep pushing [data centers] farther west, it’s just the wrong move in my opinion,” Sterling District Planning Commissioner Dan Lloyd said at a recent Planning Commission meeting.

Two days before board’s public hearing on the application, Blue Ridge Supervisor Tony Buffington (R) took to Facebook to urge residents to oppose the application.

“Please take action to help me stop this precedent setting vote by emailing my colleagues to let them know that you do NOT support Data Centers being built south of the Greenway within the TPA!” Buffington said in a Facebook post published Monday. “I’m currently confident that Supervisors Higgins and Buona will join me in voting no - BUT WE NEED MORE!”

Supervisors will consider Compass Datacenters' application at a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.


Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @SydneyKashiwagi.

Comments


I would love to see this paper do a report on the hidden impact of Amazon’s data centers here in Northern Virginia. 

Number of people employed
Impact on electrical grid and follow destruction of environment to provide ever-more non-renewable electricity to this “cloud”
How much water is going into and out of these nondescript blockhouses…

here’s a starting spot:

We get no facts from our BOS, planning commission or anyone else.  It’s time for that to change.


I haven’t seen my taxes go down in Loudoun in the 28 years living here. Instead they go up whatever business shows up in Loudoun. I’d wager most of those Data Centers were given tax breaks, grants or whatever the state/county does to entice new business, just like Redskins. We have higher taxes, tolls(hidden tax) and gas tax. And get very little in return.


This would take the place of 10 houses unless the BoS screws with the density of the transition area.


Residential residences need to be more educated on data center development in Loudoun (i.e. trees being cut down, less jobs, exterior finishes for the buildings, etc), but residences don’t want higher taxes. However residents prefer more jobs, office buildings, residential construction, etc.  This creates an imbalance in social services and higher taxes will be required. Many current residents of Loudoun County / Ashburn have not looked at historical Google aerials to see that Ashburn previously did not have many trees and very limited infrastructure until data centers became to Loudoun.

Data centers pay more in taxes over $175+M per annum and more than any other source of funding in Loudoun with minimal impact.

Whereas residents use more resources and revenues than any other source of funding in Loudoun County. Residents need to look at morning and evening rush hour (Rt. 28, Rt. 50, Rt. 7, Dulles Greenway, Waxpool Road, etc.) to see the daily impact to our lives. It’s insane!!!! Loudoun can’t handle the current population with the existing infrastructure that is currently in place.

If more jobs, homes, schools and social services were created in Loudoun.  Who’s paying for all the new extra infrastructure required to reduce traffic from an increase population in Loudoun?

Consider the impact of more high schools (i.e. traditional or Academies of Loudoun serving over 2,000 students) in Loudoun and the amount of daily traffic generated.  The risk factors are significant in having more new young drivers on the road including parents driving to school events. Are our roads in Loudoun prepared for more traffic from an increase in traffic caused by high schools with more bus traffic, athletics (football, basketball, soccer, baseball and softball, etc.) plus miscellaneous other activities?

Embrace the opportunity that Loudoun has with data centers that delivers lower taxes, minimal impact to residents and more social services paid for by data center taxes (~$175+M / year).

Otherwise higher taxes will be required by all residents to be served with services today and in the future that all residents enjoy today since data centers are a major contributor ($175+M/year) in holding taxes low with minimal impact while yielding highest ROI that generates more tax revenues for high quality schools and services for all of Loudoun.

Simply residents can’t have their cake and eat it too unless their prepared to pay for your cake.

Residents need to be educated on the issues.


Since when does the comp plan matter to ANY BOS? 


I think its really simple. 

Residential residences cry about every data center development in Loudoun (i.e. trees being cut down, less jobs, exterior finishes for the buildings, etc), but residences don’t want higher taxes.  Where’s the balance?

Data centers pay more in taxes than any other source of funding in Loudoun with minimal impact. 

Whereas residential residences use more resources than any other source of funding. 

BTW has residential residences looked at morning and evening rush hour?  It’s insane!!!!  Loudoun can’t handle the current population with the existing infrastructure. 

Who’s paying for new infrastructure to reduce traffic with the existing population in Loudoun?  What if more jobs were created in Loudoun?  Who’s paying for more infrastructure required for more jobs? Embrace the opportunity that Loudoun has with data centers and lower taxes.

Look at the impact that the Dulles Greenway has on trying to create more office development and jobs in Loudoun.  If an office building was ~100k sf with an ratio of 200sf/employee.  500 jobs would be created and the cost of doing business along the Dulles Greenway for employees would be $1.25M per year or $12.50 psf higher before any other expenses on that office building.  This is the reason why office buildings have not been developed along the Dulles Greenway.     

BTW has residential residences in Loudoun ever looked at that the amount of traffic a high school generates?  Plus the risk factors of having more young drivers on the road? Or the bus traffic?  Football, basketball, soccer, etc. games? 

Simply you can’t have you cake and eat it too unless your prepared to pay for your cake.  Pick your poison pill…higher taxes or data centers that use reduced infrastructure while yielding highest ROI that generates more tax revenues for Loudoun residences and high quality schools. 

Be educated on the issues.


We do not need another ugly big box data center, our county has already been disfigured by these ugly monstrosities. We need affordable houses for the vast number of Loundoun employees forced to commute form West clogging the roads from Purcellville to Leesburg to Ashburn to Sterling and beyond. Let these people be able to afford houses closer to where they work and it will declog our roads.


The noise pollution from the generators and the diesel fuel spilling in the Goose Creek, 1/2 block before the Loudoun Water intake plant.  Thanks, but no thanks.


Why must we develop every acre of land in Loudoun? just stop building.


Puke.  Time to leave Loudoun.  Loudoun greed is really getting disgusting.


If the history of computing is any guide, in just a few years the size of data centers will probably be 1/100th what they are today.  This will lead to the abandonment of all these huge data centers with their massive power inefficiencies (and mad scientist power connections).

It will beautiful.  All these massive concrete boxes, covered with youthful, artistic graffiti.  Enjoy your future Loudoun!


Data centers don’t belong next to a State Scenic River. They belong next to Dulles airport, where their noise and hugeness fits, and is a much better use of that land than houses. Loudoun has a huge deficit of parkland for residents—and along a state scenic river is a perfect place for one. If the BOS votes in favor of a 9-building data center along Goose Creek, that is simply the end of the Transition Area. The BOS will have set a precedent, and will be sued by developers if they attempt to turn down any other proposal. Once you’ve approved cutting down 90% of the trees protecting the reservoir right above a public water intake, destroyed a globally rare ecology identified by the state and habitat for two threatened species, there’s just no going back. And yes, it will send the message from supervisors to citizens: never mind what you’ve told us about your priorities for Loudoun.


Look at the size of the parking lot at any data center and your “how many jobs” question will answer itself.  And never forget that a number of employees telework from all over the world to these data centers.  The centers themselves are like that old joke about the factory of the future: it will be just a man and a dog.  The man, to feed the dog and the dog to keep the man from touching the machines.


I’ve read several articles in LTM about the data centers being built and never do I see any statement as to how many jobs are expected as a result.  I’m sure there will be many in the construction portion, but once the building is completed is this going to be 5 jobs, maybe 20, perhaps 1,000.  Any information would be appreciated.


@mopar19

Read a zoning map/land used convenant ONE TIME for me. PLEASE!

That land isn’t zoned for 3700 townhomes. It’s zoned for single family homes (READ: low density residential) not 3,700 townhomes.


Couple of aspects not disclosed:
Who owns the property and are they related directly or indirectly to any of the decision makers?
What is the recommended proffer for this rezoning and what is the land currently zoned for?
Knowing the river crests periodically what is the setback of the buildings as the design seems to show minimal setback and lots of blacktop?
Knowing how close this is to the LCPS AOS Program are they offering to provide internships for our students allowing for some very high tech exposure?
Just a few thoughts as almost anything is better for Loudoun than high density residential however if the BOS was really concerned about tax rates they would add the hospitals, HHMI and a few other sacred cows to the property tax list.
Bob Ohneiser Esq.


Thanks brainless BOS for making yet another target for the terrorists of the world. Do you not think they realize that 70% of the worlds internet traffic goes through Loudoun? One attack whether by conventional bomb or blackout would cripple the world! And you guys just make it easier to take out Loudoun County in one big flash..bright guys you are!


Data Centers over Homes in the transition area is a Win-Win for everybody.


Don’t Ashburn Loudoun.


Rather have the data centers than 3700 new townhouse


I 100% support building data centers in the transition area.

Here in eastern Loudoun they’re allowed to build them on every square inch of available land, and I feel the rest of the county should share our joy.


Parts of Loudoun County are beginning to look like the back room of a shoe store: large boxes everywhere.

At the very least, our supervisors should demand that power lines be put underground within half a mile of a data center.

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