Loudoun Supervisors Debate Future of Data Center Developments

Members of the Board of Supervisors’ Transportation and Land Use Committee are holding a months-long discussion on where data centers should—and should not—go in Loudoun, as the industry looks to push into new territory.

While an important part of Loudoun’s tax base—so large, in fact, that the county is working to reduce its reliance on taxes from the industry—data centers also draw many complaints, especially when near homes, thanks to their large scale, noisy infrastructure and environmental impacts. The discussion was prompted in part by the realization that data centers are permitted by-right along much of the Rt. 7 corridor, which has historically been protected from that kind of industrial development.

The committee previously recommended the full board work quickly to establish a zoning overlay preventing data centers along that corridor, but supervisors instead sent the issue back to committee for a larger discussion. That discussion began in April, with more planned at its meeting Wednesday, June 1 and in July.

The Department of Economic Development has also identified an area of southeast Loudoun, which it has dubbed “Dulles Cloud South,” as potential new land for data center development. It is a proposal the department previously put forth and was rejected during the county’s work on a new comprehensive plan.

In that area, the department recommended enhanced standards such as requiring zero-carbon energy.

“We wanted to make sure that if that was considered, that it would have some sort of layer of protection, some opportunity to really restrict how that Is done in order to protect those around it, and the environment, and those kinds of things,” said Department of Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer.

At their meeting in April, committee members were once again split but skeptical of that proposal, but were open to further exploring opening up part of that area near an intersection of major power lines, east of Auburn Farm Road and south of Braddock Road.

“You have a whole mass of land here that’s highly unpopulated, so why wouldn’t you consider using that?” said Supervisor Caleb E. Kershner (R-Catoctin). But Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said, by that logic, the county would permit data centers across the rural area—“man, we could make so much money if we had data centers all the way to the top of the Blue Ridge Mountain.”

He pointed out that would be further data center development in the county’s Transition Policy Area, which divides the Rural and Suburban policy areas.

“I think it’s silly, I think it’s completely opposite of what the public told us they want. I think that this is dangerous territory for Loudoun County,” Buffington said. “It would change the face of Loudoun County the future of Loudoun County if we start pushing data west into our more rural areas, that by policy area are designated to be that way. I think it’s a horrible, horrible idea.”

And supervisors generally agreed that data centers should not be permitted near homes—or, Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) pointed out, the reverse.

“I think it’s unwise to allow residential near land that is zoned for data centers, so I think we need to look at it from that perspective as well,” she said.

Talk of limiting data center development has been answered with a coordinated campaign to push back by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, which has urged members to speak to supervisors in opposition.

Supervisors will move ahead with general policy ideas, such as permitting data centers in the Route 28 Tax District, and opposing data centers where they are today permitted by-right but where the comprehensive plan envisions mixed-use suburban neighborhoods. This week, they were expected to dive into those topics in more detail, hoping to give county planners the necessary guidance to start drafting revisions to county zoning ordinances.

“This is really, really hard stuff, this is really complex. We’re dealing with hundred-million-dollar investments within the industry, an entire industry that has staked everything on the development in Loudoun County,” said committee Chairman Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn). “They have been extraordinarily favorable and good community partners to Loudoun County, and we as supervisors are kind of caught in a position where we’ve got to do our due diligence on behalf of our constituents, and we want to do that in as unobtrusive and benign way as possible, but we do have to do it.”

7 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors Debate Future of Data Center Developments

  • 2022-06-01 at 1:38 pm

    The BOS has a reputation of being in the back pocket of developers. I don’t know whether that’s true. But the perception is there. Thus, the BOS will be closely watched as it approaches the issue of more data centers. I know Western Loudoun can’t remain Petticoat Junction forever. But allowing developers to plunder the area isn’t acceptable. Welcome to June Loudoun!

    • 2022-06-01 at 2:54 pm

      Why can’t Western Loudoun remain as is with some improvements over time? Not every inch of land needs to be developed on. It’s okay to see green, which I much rather have than another townhome community or data center.

      BoS are definitely in the back pocket of developers. If you can’t see that by now, then no wonder the county has these buffoons running the show. Voters like you actually think they are working for you and not themselves.

  • 2022-06-01 at 2:24 pm

    Stop the insanity! No more data center development in this county! When will enough be enough for this BoS group? All they are thinking about is tax revenue for their pet projects. Where has the tax revenue from these eye sores been reinvested? Roads are bad. Traffic is bad. Schools are horrible. Greenway prices outrageous. Metro behind and will be disastrous when opened. County slowly turning into a Fairfax County and Montgomery county. Sad.

    The only thing this BoS knows how to do is stamp their approval on more data centers and more housing developments (which are basically either apartments, townhomes, or single family homes that might as well be townhomes). The BoS are costing the beauty and peacefulness of this county in exchange of more money to spend on god knows what — environmental studies, changing names of roads that may offend someone, more traffic lights at every street corner possible, more raises to themselves and county officials, giving our money to incentivize more development companies to build on our land, etc. But nothing that gives back to the those who live in the county.

    We need to clean house and vote every BoS member OUT! As well as every LCSB member. These people only care about one thing – themselves and the power they have over us.

    • 2022-06-02 at 5:02 pm

      This BOS loves to spend our money on “equity” consultants and other nonsense. As with most decisions they are making, the answer why they do this is easy: Just follow the money trail. Progressive supervisors hire their backers so that they can produce thousands of pages on the best way for Loudouners to improve their wokeness levels. As it pertains to installing traffic lights all over the place, the traffic light mafia in LoCo is omnipresent and owns supervisors of both parties. Every resident using Route 50 can thank supervisor Tony B. for the nonsensical traffic light that was installed on Lenah Mill and is red 90% of the time (day and night). Spending other people’s money has never been a problem for this BOS because there is no accountability. Hopefully one day our residents will wake up from their slumber and vote them out of office.

  • 2022-06-01 at 3:27 pm

    Tim, We finally agree on something but with an important difference. The back-pocket of developers you refer to is high density residential NOT data centers. Do you think these ^%&^^&%’s (excluding the supervisor for Leesburg) are going to negotiate with Microsoft or Amazon to get a bigger campaign donation for a few more ADU’s like they do for big residential deals? The whole topic is absurd when you consider Loudoun is still about 38% higher in property tax rate than most of Virginia. Take money out of elections and maybe we will see some focus on solving problem (real problems) instead of pandering for donations or votes to stay in office. 🙂

  • 2022-06-01 at 4:38 pm

    Time and again, we see that Loudoun has problems because of “by-right” development. That is a problem Richmond created. Loudoun needs to lobby Richmond to eliminate by-right development in Loudoun and, for that matter, any urban county. Of course, by-right development exists because Richmond is more crooked than Loudoun, which is a difficult problem to overcome.

  • 2022-06-01 at 5:13 pm

    Enough with the Data Centers! They are eyesores. I have seen no real benefit to the county. Let’s maintain what we have and the reason why so many people originally moved to the county. If the BoS can’t get it right let’s vote them out and get folks who can!!

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