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Fairfax County board to hold public hearing on Chantilly data center proposal amid opposition

An affiliate of developer Penzance is seeking to build a three-story data center (via Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering a proposal to rezone several acres near Chantilly Auto Park for a data center.

The project, however, faces strong opposition from several local stakeholder groups who are urging the board to delay approval until the effects of data center development can be further researched.

“We don’t yet understand the cumulative impacts of energy consumption, water usage, wastewater contamination, diesel fuel storage and exhaust filtration, and noise impacts on the environment, wildlife, and humans,” Jay Johnston, president of the Virginia Run Homeowner’s Association and member of the Sully District Council of Citizens Association, said in a press release. “It’s time for common sense to prevail and allow time to review and implement before we create further harm to ourselves and the environment.”

In September of last year, the Fairfax County Planning Commission recommended approval of an application to rezone a 12-acre plot of land off Route 50.

PDCREF 2 Chantilly LLC, an affiliate of the D.C.-based real estate investment firm Penzance, purchased the 3.4 million square-foot site in August 2022 for $10 million, per county land records. If approved, the developer would be allowed to build either a 150,000-square-foot warehouse or a 402,000-square-foot data center, ranging from 75 to 110 feet in height.

The proposal comes as data center development in the region has reached a breakneck pace. Northern Virginia currently hosts over 200 data centers spread out across Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties, according to Datacenters.com.

Loudoun County currently has the largest concentration with about 175 data centers, followed by Prince William County with over 30. The Prince William County Board of Supervisors approved a 3-million-square foot development last month that would add 37 more data centers.

In contrast, Fairfax County houses under 30 data centers, per Datacenters.com.

The rapid expansion of data centers in Northern Virginia has raised concerns among many local residents and environmental groups, who warn of potential negative effects, such as increased carbon and noise pollution and high water and electricity usage.

Fairfax County began developing standards for the facilities last year, and at the state level, the General Assembly is considering several bills to create stricter regulations around data center development, such as requiring 90% of energy from non-carbon-emitting sources, maintaining certain energy efficiency levels, and mandating larger buffers between these facilities and nearby parks and residences.

While data centers have generated substantial tax revenue for local and state governments since 2017, local stakeholders argue the pace of development has been too fast, and regulatory oversight is lacking.

“The tri-county areas of Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William are, by all measures the largest concentration of data centers — in the world,” Johnston said in the release.

“No place in the world has a larger concentration been created, which places it close to the nation’s capital and the center of the free world and a prime target for those who wish to do US harm,” he continued. “Yet, we lag behind in regulations to control the growth or to manage what we currently have under construction because of some arcane rules that we can’t impose new regulation after submission of proposal to the county.”

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the Penzance proposal around 4 p.m. tomorrow in the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway). Johnston and other opponents, including the West Fairfax County Citizens Association and the Sully District Council of Citizens Association of Chantilly, plan to hold a press conference before the hearing at 3 p.m. to demand modifications to the proposal.

“The property is located in a drinking water supply protection area, near residential communities and an aircraft flight corridor — all threatened by the sheer size of the data center,” the release says.

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