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EDITORIAL: Supervisors should reject data center along Goose Creek

Finding true north is essential for accurate navigation.

Hence the metaphor. In life’s journey we are often uncertain where we stand, where we are going and what is the right path. Knowing true north enables us to follow the right path.

County officials seem lost in their consideration of a massive data center project called True North Data that re-purposes 106 acres of nature on the west side of Goose Creek.

Misdirection comes from a Dallas-based box builder, its hired-gun land-use attorney and the county’s economic development department. They lead a perverse expedition to take “progress” to a place  it doesn’t belong -- a “transition zone” intended to mitigate development in an area where natural assets are cherished.

The True North Data project takes Loudoun into the woods. Tax revenue from the data center -- a 750,000 square-foot warehouse filled with thousands of computer servers -- -- could amount to as much as $22 million a year. That stirs the pulse of supervisors who covet tax revenue above all things.

“... let’s make it very clear that a no vote says no to the tax revenue,” says Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), confirming Loudoun’s  current priorities.

But Supervisor Gerry Higgins (R-Catoctin) cites the shallowness of his colleague’s position. “If we are shortsighted enough to pass this, we have the capacity to do even dumber things,” he admits.

Higgins position is echoed by environmental groups and hundreds of county residents who also oppose the data center -- citizens all but dismissed by a majority of the board.

It’s not as if the county needs a new data center along Goose Creek to fulfill its legacy of growth. With clients such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and many government agencies, Loudoun’s 75 data centers keep tens of thousands of computer servers humming in more than 10 million square feet of warehouse space, mainly around Ashburn. The county brags that an estimated 70 percent of the world’s Internet traffic flows through Loudoun. Additionally, the county has identified 43 parcels for future data center use, most in the Route 606 development corridor.

Yet, county officials are strangely captivated by a project that principally benefits outside interests over those from people who live here. In what sounds like a threat, the applicants warn the county’s insecure officials that technology companies will go elsewhere if their project is denied. In what looks like a bribe, they offer $50,000 in scholarships.

While we’re enthusiastic supporters of Loudoun’s place in the knowledge economy, we worry in this case about the county losing its sense of place. Loudoun’s character shouldn’t be for sale at any price.

True north can’t be found extracting tax revenue from data centers in transition zones.

On Jan. 18, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to make a consequential decision about the county’s character. Those supervisors who currently favor the spread of data centers to Goose Creek  -- Letourneau,  Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian), Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg), Koran Saines (D-Sterling) and Ron Meyer (Broad Run) -- should come to their senses. They should follow a path to progress that leads respectfully to the county’s future, not one that takes them into the woods.

True North is a character test of vision and leadership. Supervisors should abide the wishes of Loudouners and reject a misguided project that overtakes our values and our land.


It’s always humorous to read - on the INTERNET - opinions of how bad data centers - which ARE the Internet. I mean, it’s the height of hypocrisy. If you despise data centers, place an ad in a print-only newspaper, or perhaps a sky-writing message. Make a point, not a hypocritical example of yourself.

Data Centers are an abomination foisted on Loudoun.  I swear when I ride through parts of Ashburn I feel like I’m in one of those early 90’s virtual reality games where buildings were represented by large, feature-less rectangles.

They are ugly, bring with them demands for ugly, view-spoiling power lines, drink enormous quantities of water, fill the winter skies with huge steam/smoke clouds. 

First, yes I am fine with a datacenter next to my neighborhood.

Second, I oppose nearly all the zoning laws.  They are anti-capitalist and generally bad public policy.

Note owners can often win legal awards (or injunctions) against uses that seriously detract from their own use (pig farm next door that emits strong odors).  But aesthetic appeal is not on that list.  It’s elitist and inappropriately restricts how property owners can use their property.  Similarly adult-themed shops can/should also be restricted because of their secondary effects (crime, late-night traffic).

The reason unskilled workers can’t afford to live in Loudoun is because of all these zoning laws.  It’s also why we are so segregated by SES and often race.  When you don’t have to intermingle (e.g. all the poor illegal students are in a handful of schools), many citizens neither understand much of the citizenry or face the consequences of their votes.  We see this when rich, isolated Democrats tell the working class folks how great illegal immigration is for them while erecting barriers to keep the riff raff out of their country clubs.

The landowners that were here forever in Loudoun WATNED to sell their land for higher density homes.  The residents that moved in WANTED to come to Loudoun.  The fact that those who moved here want to shut the gates behind them or that other long-term residents want to prevent their neighbors from realizing a profit on their land is irrelevant to the property rights of those landholders.  At least that’s my opinion.  And articulated quite well by Thomas Sowell of Stanford.

Sup Higgins can grandstand all he wants to herald the “no” horn.  He seems way too cozy with the lawyers representing developers (Minchew) to deserve credibility.  Pander here when it is safe.  Drain the swamp and find some real do-gooders through and through.

US data centers consumed about 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2014, the most recent year examined, representing 2 percent of the country’s total energy consumption, according to an Energy Department study. That’s equivalent to consumption of about 6.4 million average American homes that year.

Now just think, Loudoun has about 70% of Internet traffic. Think of all the carbon emitted and pollution in our back yard.

In China and some western U.S. states, data centers are built to be carbon neutral. Apple has built a carbon neutral data center as well.

But not True North.


1-Loudoun County has a Comprehensive Plan - this area is zoned and it’s part of the Transition Policy Area.  During the Public Outreach, residents made it clear that they do not want this area to change for great reasons.

2- This is about water source protection - and putting a 750,000 sq feet data center right along Goose Creek is going to create a high risk for pollution and will not protect our water.

3- Loudoun - what’s spacial about it? Drive through Eastern Loudoun and loss of tree canopy is very sad.

4- Lesson to Learn - when you re-zone for excessive residential growth, someone will have to pay the price. Hopefully going forward, Loudoun will control it’s growth and invests in it’s communities.

VA SGP - would you want one next door to your house?

Wrong project in the wrong place, justified by fake numbers But GREAT editorial.

And to those who want unfettered right to use property in any manner they desire, how would you react if your neighbor decided he had the right to use his property for, as an example, a junkyard?

The BoS did not come in after the owner bought the property and tell him it was for only 10 homes they knew it up front!

Jonathan, I understand your opinion, just disagree.

The landowners should be able to do almost anything with their land. That’s what private property is all about. Zoning laws breed corruption and inefficient use of land. They also contribute to segregation along many different factors (SES, race, etc.)

Imagine King George telling the colonists he would control how they could use their land. They would revolt.

Gerry’s got it right. Data Centers certainly have value, but not to most residents (excepting the tax control advantage), not in the long term, certainly not to our workforce and other non-facility/development businesses, and not when this particular business growth facet outpaces all others.

SGP they can build 10 homes but don’t want to sell the property that way as there is no hookups for utilities so they will not make as much as putting this monstrosity in.

Data centers are a win for everyone.  Tax revenues. Low traffic. Higher tech concentration makes Loudoun more marketable to other companies.

Landowners should have a right to use their property as they wish.  This opposition, if allowed to prevail, means the original owners of that land receive less compensation for their land simply to please some no-growthers.  All while imposing higher costs and more traffic (from single family homes).

I just don’t understand why so many are willing to cut off their noses to spite their face.

Best editorial ever!

The $22 million annual revenue sounds like a fantasy. By other accounts, there are about 70 datacenters in Loudoun now, generating about $150 million - an average of less than $3 million a year. Are these developers promising almost 8 time the revenue of the average datacenter? To the 5 supervisors who are buying this number - please check your math; this is too important to get wrong.

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