Loudoun Supervisors Move Toward Approving Goose Creek Data Center

A majority on the Board of Supervisors seems set to approve a massive data center complex on the banks of Goose Creek despite sustained public protests.

The True North data center, proposed by H&H Acquisitions of Dallas, TX, would include a 750,000-square-foot data center and utility substation on 106 acres between the Dulles Greenway, Sycolin Road, and Goose Creek, across the creek from the Goose Creek Gardens and Pavilion.

Tina Cheatham, of Lovettsville, came to the board to point out that’s about 1.6 times as large as the published square footage of the Leesburg Outlets.

It would also destroy a rare ecological community called a Northern Piedmont Mafic Barren—one of only 10 such sites in the world, according to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Under current zoning, the property could permit up to one house per ten acres.

That has drawn sustained public outcry from neighbors, conservation groups, and others, including the three supervisors with districts including or bordering the property—Supervisors Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) and Tony R. Buffington Jr. (R-Blue Ridge) and Board of Supervisors vice chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). Along with Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), they say the proposal is a good project in the wrong place.

“This is about protecting western Loudoun,” Buffington said. “And under some of the justifications I’ve heard so far about why we should do this, we might as well do this all the way out to Clarke County. We might as well do it all the way out to West Virginia.”

The project has been billed as an environmentally responsible data center. The applicants say the facility will not use water except for humidification. At a Board of Supervisors public hearing in November, the attorney representing the applicant, Cooley LLP partner Colleen Gillis, said the data center complex would be less harmful to Goose Creek than the low-density housing that could be built there today under current zoning.

The applicant has also committed to a linear park and trail along the building setback from Goose Creek, along with planting pollinator plants and trees among other environmental considerations.

“Environmentally they’ve bent over backwards, but it’s still not the place,” Buona said. “And for those supervisors that haven’t been out there, you have to go see it.”

Supervisors who support the project point to the expected $22-$24 million in local tax revenue the project could create at full buildout.

“Let’s make it very clear that a no vote says no to that tax revenue,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles).

[Renss Greene/Loudoun Now]
“If we want to keep our taxes at a reasonable level, we have to build our business tax base,” agreed Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg). “… In the end this is an environmentally sensitive data center, and it provides a massive amount of funding for our schools, our roads, our libraries, and I intend to support it.”

But supervisors opposed to the project say giving up the project doesn’t necessarily give up its benefits, pointing to the other data center spaces available in the county.

“We’re supposed to be the representatives of the people,” Randall said. “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.”

“Tonight’s vote is going to be one of the most important votes that this board takes on Loudoun County’s future,” said Higgins, whose district includes the property. “Tonight’s vote will determine the future of our county.”

Randall called a roll call for the first time. With the vote to narrowly deny the application failing 4-5, supervisors agreed to send the application to the Transportation and Land Use Committee to try to iron out some of its lingering issues. County planners continue to oppose the application and expressed concerns about preserving too little open space or visibility of the complex from Sycolin Road.

“Since there are five supervisors up here hell-bent on going against the four supervisors who represent this area, and this is going to pass, then let’s at least make it the best thing it can possibly be,” said Buona, who proposed sending the application to committee.

“I gotta tell you, we’re sticking a data center in the middle of a pristine area, and going to destroy a geological formation of which there are ten in the world,” Randall said. “You can’t make that a whole lot better, to be honest.”

Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian), who chairs that committee, called a special meeting of the committee at 5 p.m. on Dec. 13, citing scheduling concerns. The committee will meet an hour before a Board of Supervisors public hearing.


11 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors Move Toward Approving Goose Creek Data Center

  • 2017-12-06 at 4:33 pm

    “How dare us decide that we know better than all of these people.”

    Um, that is the job of elected officials. To know more about what’s in a land use application than the rest of us. And then to vote based upon all of the information.

    Instead, politicians just use the excuse dejour to justify their vote instead of having the guts to say why they really are for or against something.

  • 2017-12-06 at 5:16 pm

    Better than townhouses…

    As for this “Northern Piedmont Mafic Barren—one of only 10 such sites in the world, according to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.” They must not get out much from their offices in Richmond. I could show three sites, off the top of my head, that look exactly like that picture within two miles of this site.

    • 2017-12-06 at 11:12 pm

      “Better than townhouses” presents a false alternative. The alternative is that the property is developed as zoned which means 1 house per 10 acres.

      • 2017-12-07 at 11:13 am

        I wish you were right TSSVA. However, I’ve seen it too many times — There’s always an exception, and they usually get handed out in LoCo.

        Folks need to realize, as much as we hate it, the transition area is gone. In fact, it won’t ever stop until the entire county looks just like the cesspool to the east of us. We had warnings, we had voices saying “whoa” just for a breather (Jim Burton comes to mind; whom I’ve had vast differences with in the past, but respect enormously) but we let happen anyway. I hope you’re right and I’m wrong Tssva, but I’m not betting a pay check on it.

        I’ll take a well planned data center any day vice another townhouse blob.

  • 2017-12-06 at 5:28 pm

    If this proposal is in the “Transition Policy Area,” it is not in western Loudoun. Please show map of the entire county with the zoning and location of the project. Thank you.

  • 2017-12-07 at 9:14 am

    Chris Manthos, just because something looks like Northern Piedmont Mafic Barren, doesn’t mean it is… there are a lot more components to an eco system than what it “looks” like.
    The other concern that no one seems to want to address is – what effect does all of the EMF/radiation emitted from these sites do? Most people know that it is not healthy to live close to the high power lines, yet it’s OK to put these centers up? With no concern or consideration of the effects…?

    • 2017-12-07 at 11:20 am

      Downtown, I agree with you on the electro-magnetic field angle completely. Correct me if I’m wrong, but most data centers are built as Faraday cages anyway? I’d like to some information what they’re putting off anyway. Another aspect of this property: it has the recently upgraded mega huge transmission lines running right along it.

  • 2017-12-07 at 9:49 am

    We trade you a no vote on the data centerfor a no vote on the Potomac bridge, Ralph!

  • 2017-12-07 at 10:55 am

    Such as? Explain it to us Downtown. I’ve been hearing about this spot for years. We just take it on faith that is really only on of 10 places in the entire universe… There is a heck of a lot more biological diversity in LoCo than most people imagine.

    For the record, I despise development. But I recognize people have property rights. This place has been for sale for a long time. It already got nixed for an “over 50” development (what more could you ask for: taxpayers with no kids?), so here we are.

    I know this place; the spot were talking about is adjacent to the Toll Road. As in, you could hop the fence and be on it real quick. Somehow, it’s still there. It’s across the road from Loudoun Waters massive new treatment plant. Just up the hill is the new power plant. Across the street is the massive and environmentally devastating Academies of Loudoun.
    I’m more than interested in what exactly does it take to be listed as a “Northern Piedmont Mafic Barren?” There are outcroppings exactly like this up and down the lower Goose. They all face south, they have a load of lichens and other species all over them. Who’s to say the spores, seeds, whatnot couldn’t spread to other outcroppings a short distance away? You can’t hold life back, it will spread as you well know.

    I want to know what it is, specifically. And how it’s it not possible to be anywhere else nearby. That defies everything we know about science. Where are the other 9 places?

    If i had my way, and the money, I’d buy the place myself and keep it just as it is. But I also understand the expense the owners must be shouldering as it is. I didn’t want the tool road built, but tough luck. I didn’t want the power plant and the water treatment plant built, but oh well. I didn’t want the Academies of Loudoun, which destryoed an icredible stand of hardwoods with low

    • 2017-12-07 at 11:01 am

      sorry, … with seasonal water courses and wetlands that supported God knows how many critters, Now, all of the toxic construction debris and residue, and massive earth moving, altered natural water courses, effect me. All of the land flush comes right at me, in the form of parking lot runoff and sterile storm management pond runoff. Ain’t I lucky? It’s reality and it sucks, but here we are.

  • 2017-12-07 at 3:19 pm

    Chris, you (as usual) make a great point. While this is currently zoned Transition and can only house 10 homes, that doesn’t mean that it will be in the Transition Zone next year after the Comp plan rehaul or some other point in the future. I’ve been opposed to this data center in this place because it is a toehold into the TZ. Maybe it is the lesser of 2 evils and prevents housing in the long run. Food for thought.

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