Letter: James T. Carmichael, Leesburg

Editor:  I write in response to the article entitled “Farmland to Data Centers Switch Worries Neighbors.” A better title would have been “Subdivision to Data Centers Switch Worries NIMBYs.”

The choice is not between farmland and data centers.  That ship has sailed.  The real choice is between residential subdivisions and data centers. By now, we all know which one is better for the county as a whole. Data center tax revenue can be used for schools, first responders, and roads, thereby lowering the taxes paid by the rest of us. Opting for residential subdivisions, on the other hand, burdens our schools, first responders, and roads, and increases taxes on current residents.

This leaves the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) approach exemplified in the Loudoun Nowarticle.  The article quotes a Red Cedar resident raising three issues. All three are easily disposed of.

The first issue (“We know traffic and schools aren’t going to be impacted”) is only half right. Red Cedar residents are correct that data centers will not make traffic any worse or schools more crowded.  Kudos to them for admitting it. Imagine the crowding on roads and schools if data centers were replaced with subdivisions. But they are incorrect when they say traffic and schools are not going to be impacted. They are already being impacted, in a very positive way. The tax windfall collected from existing data centers is being used to improve schools and roads. That will continue indefinitely, unless NIMBYs have their way.

The second issue (“what light pollution is there going to be?”) is simple. The technology to limit light pollution is well developed. For example, lights can be pointed down and shielded. Think of the alternative: more subdivisions with street lamps and more high schools with stadium lights. Red Cedar residents already have to squint when driving past blazingly bright floodlights from nearby sports fields.

The answer to the third issue (“What noise pollution is there going to be”) is already known.  Drive past any of Loudoun’s existing data centers. They are quiet. No outdoor speakers. No shotguns. No dogs. Compare that to current residential development allowed in the transition zone.

The article also says residents of Red Cedar were alarmed to find out about a proposed data center at neighboring Holyfield farm. Where were they when the Holyfield farm owner proposed to build hundreds of houses instead? Between the two options, it’s an easy choice.

James T. Carmichael, Leesburg

2 thoughts on “Letter: James T. Carmichael, Leesburg

  • 2019-02-22 at 12:09 pm

    Mr. Carmichael, clearly, we understand you favor data centers. Given your association with the Holyfield application and the millions you could earn from that decision, we understand why you have passion in your response. However, a few counterpoints to your letter:

    1. First, your comment about subdivisions vs data centers is misleading. That decision depends on the parcel(s) in question, location, topography, environmental factors, etc . and oh yeah proximity to existing neighborhoods. It’s one thing to stick a data center in the middle of an existing commercial / suburban environment, it’s another to convert current rural TR-10 (one dwelling per 10 acres and 70% open space) to a data center, as the current application/recommendation down Gulick Mill and Evergreen Mills Rds would suggest. The county could always find a way to build out new housing projects like Red Cedar or another Brambleton, which would to your point “overly” strain roads, schools, etc. This doesn’t have to be a worse case vs worse case decision. Data Centers in the wrong location would be a disaster for existing neighborhoods; look, appeal, quality of life, etc … who would buy a house looking at 15-30 data centers (aka data center park) in Holyfield or Hogeland Mill Road? Why don’t you ask the folks in the existing neighborhoods in the entirety of the TPA and see how many want data centers in the TPA.

    2. Other factors such as light pollution and noise issues are a fact, not opinion. I’d suggest you talk to any existing neighbor to a current data center and learn a few facts before making assumptions. Here is an example “Ever since one of the cooling units failed and lost a bearing, the noise is so loud I cannot sit in my back yard and hear the person next to me”. Or comments about the exhaust, lights, etc. It’s why they call it “Industrial”. Industrial does not belong beside residential, period. Why should those unlucky taxpayers shoulder the burden of all that comes with industrial data centers? Tax savings …give me a break.

    3. The comment about the revenue data centers bring to the county. True we have learned data centers generate massive cash flow for the county. Have you seen a drop in your taxes? I bet not given the recent assessment. While the tax rate may drop slightly, the county raises the “value” which thereby keeps your tax bill the same or generates a slightly higher one. What it does not do is help with affordable housing, which is the major need being communicated throughout this process. The true issue here is county expenses, which seem to have no end. Why do we have to add MORE DATA CENTERS when we already have 70+ in operation and another 20-30 under construction? This is nothing more than a tax revenue grab so the government can increase its expenses (salaries, benefits, entitlements, etc). Do the Schools see a benefit from the data center revenue? No, those are built with debt (bonds) you vote on. Why can’t data centers become a referendum and voted on by the taxpayers versus the few “lucky ones” who sit on the stakeholder/planning/zoning committees?

    4. NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) vs COI (Conflict of Interest). With respect, this is not a NIMBY issue, it’s a county governance issue. This concept of a “where were you when”, i.e. your opinion does not matter if they were not involved from the gory beginning, is not the climate we need when we know the bulk of our county residents have no idea what is being proposed around them. The only people qualified to comment are those that have tenure. That’s the root of the problem. It’s a vicious cycle. Also, COI is apparent. Like those who sit on boards (e.g. having influence of where data centers are built) with voting power also have personal interest that would generate millions (say a planning commissioner who is also a commercial broker with a data center listing or look at the groups who give to our local politicians to fund their lifelong dream of becoming a career politician). This is a true problem that the county needs to address asap.

    TPA residents, I urge you to voice your concerns and vision for the county, do not let individuals who have a financial incentive make all the decisions around you or belittle you for speaking your opinion on county decisions. There is a clear issue around who is making the decisions and why and the county owes it to the taxpayer to do the right thing and give everyone a fair shake on this issue. Data centers are not bad, we just do not believe they need to be built near existing residential neighborhoods.

  • 2019-02-22 at 2:33 pm

    That sure sounds like a NIMBY reply to me. I’ll take living next to a data center any day over living next to a 400 home sub-division. So would most reasonable people.

    Where was my “say” when Red Cedar was built on “farmland?” Why was my viewscape ruined with a mass of viynal homes, their lights, and the burden of more kids in schools and thousands of added trips on our roads?

    The TPA is dead. It was dead when it was created. Don’t be naive. The question is what gets stuffed into it. Data centers create money for the county. They don’t have kids and they don’t go to the grocery store. They pay for themselves, and they require nothing in governmnet services. Whereas developments… like Red Cedar… cost everyone else money and resources.

    Classic example of people who move in a few years ago, burdening others, and then feel entitled to tell long time Loudouners what they can and can’t do with their land. My family has never occupied a housing footprint that wasn’t from the early 1800’s We preserved and tended the land for decades. The writing’s on the wall. Loudoun can have all the little plans it wants, but in the end, we’ll be just like disgusting Fairfax county.

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