County supervisors have approved a proposal to abandon the vision of a mixed use, town-center-style development between Rt. 50 and Evergreen Mills Road along Loudoun County Parkway in favor of acres of Google data centers.
Google announced in November 2017 that it has purchased about 91 acres in the undeveloped middle of the Arcola Center property, along with another 57 acres at the Stonewall Business Park south of Leesburg. Supervisors’ vote will permit up to 2.35 million square feet of data center development at Arcola Center. It would also allow some green spaces that were to be conserved under the previous plan to be developed.
Many of the objections to the project centered its rethinking of longstanding plans for Arcola Center—and its proponents pointed out how long-standing those plans have been. The new plans substitute a corporate park, main street area, business park, and a central park for a secure data center campus, effectively cutting the Residences at Main Street and shops at the development’s southern end and the village at its northern end off from each other. But the original plans stretch back to 2006, and much that mixed-use development vision remains unrealized a decade later.
Some of those who spoke in favor of the data center plans during a September public hearing were residents who will live in its shadow. They said after their homes had been built, development had halted and their early investment in a town center development has never been realized. County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said she would support “with regret that it’s happened like this.”
“They are in support of this, but it’s because it’s where they are right now,” Randall said. “They aren’t happy to have to support a data center across the street, it was what came in to help them. What Google’s doing will help the neighborhood.”
Besides, pointed out some supervisors, some data center construction seem inevitable—on much of the property, they are already permitted.
“The bottom line is, we’re already getting 1.5 million square feet of data center by-right on this development, and it’s already owned by Google and they’re going to build it,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles).
Supervisors also celebrated the developer’s new proffer agreement, which Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said was the biggest he’d seen in his time on the Board of Supervisors. Those include faster construction that previously planned on Arcola Boulevard and Dulles West Boulevard, widening Rt. 50, $5.2 million toward an interchange at Rt. 50 and Loudoun County Parkway, land and $5.6 million toward an elementary school, and nearly a $4 million capital facilities contribution. That number takes into account credit given for various projects, especially roads; the developer’s total capital contribution is valued at $25.3 million.
County planners opposed the application, writing in a report “staff does not support the extent to which the proposed amendments allow data center use to become the dominant land use feature within Arcola Center, segregate remaining land uses within the development, and further limit opportunities for mixed employment uses.”
Supervisors voted to approve the new plans 6-0-2-1, with Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) and Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) absent and Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) abstaining.