A planned data center on the south side of Route 50 near Stonecroft Blvd is already stirring up some controversy, well ahead of a hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission.
An affiliate of Penzance, a D.C.-based firm, is seeking the county’s permission to rezone a nearly 12-acre piece of land to develop one of two options: a 402,000-square-foot data center or a 150,000-square-foot warehouse.
Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith said a Fairfax County Planning Commission meeting originally set for June 28 has been deferred. She plans to host a community meeting sometime in July.
“The applicant did not reaffirm their affidavit in time,” Smith said regarding the hearing’s deferral.
To move forward with the plan — called Chantilly Premier — the county would have to rezone the property from a split zoning of light and heavy industrial uses and commercial uses to industrial uses with a higher developmental intensity.
Although the proposed data center would exceed the recommended intensity of uses outlined by the county, staff said that increased intensity was justified because the land is located in the Route 28 Special Tax District.
The applicant also wants a special exception to increase the allowed height of the data center from 75 feet to 110 feet, arguing that the added height is necessary to accommodate rooftop equipment and screening.
The data center option would include 50 parking spaces to the south of the three-story building, four loading spaces, and an 8-foot-tall security fence within the outside of an environmentally sensitive area.
The second option for a warehouse would include 150 parking spaces, a loading dock with 30 spaces, trailer parking, and a stormwater bio-retention area. The applicant would also pursue LEED green building certification for the warehouse.
The proposal has already gained opposition from residents of the Pleasant Valley neighborhood in Chantilly.
Cynthia Shang, who lives in the community of more than 500 single-family homes, said the neighborhood has serious concerns about the proposal’s intensity, incompatibility, and environmental impacts.
“Our top concern is that our representatives are rubber stamping these data centers with little regard for the negative impacts to the residents’ quality of life and the environment,” she told FFXnow by email. “Neither the data center nor the ‘fallback’ parcel distribution warehouse (which would require air and noise polluting diesel fueled semi-trucks to U-turn at Pleasant Valley, endangering our student drivers going to Westfield HS) are appropriate for the environmentally sensitive area.”
At the requested height, the data center would dwarf surrounding buildings, Shang said. She’s also concerned about noise generated from 115 exhaust fans, 18 air handling units and 20 diesel generators, along with potential impacts of having diesel and exhaust fluid near environmental sensitive areas.
“That amount of diesel and exhaust fluid immediately adjacent to the Comprehensive Plan’s sensitive environmental areas, including a tributary that flows to the Occoquan Reservoir that supplies our drinking water, should not be acceptable,” she wrote. “Accidents and fires happen. This upzoning to accommodate data centers must stop.” Read More
As Northern Virginia continues to cement its position as a global base for data centers, Fairfax County leaders say the time has come to reevaluate the impact of the facilities and, potentially, set some boundaries for the future.
At its meeting this morning (Tuesday), the Board of Supervisors directed county staff to research environmental issues linked to data centers and what’s being done to address them. Staff will also develop guidelines for site locations and the process for approving them.
The unanimously approved motion introduced by Board Chairman Jeff McKay advised staff to report back by the end of this year, but with more centers in the works, some supervisors suggested an accelerated timeline is needed.
“The technology’s changing, the practices are changing, so there may be some things that we need to do even sooner than the end of the year,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said. “I would just encourage us to be flexible and staff to bring things forward when ready.”
Though Silicon Valley remains synonymous with the tech industry, the internet lives in Virginia, which hosts about 35% of the world’s data centers — including 45 million square feet just in Northern Virginia, according to a recent report by real estate developer JLL. As much as 70% of all online traffic passes through Loudoun County, giving it the nickname “Data Center Alley.”
Fairfax County currently has 11 data centers with five more “in the pipeline,” according to McKay. Alcorn said four of the upcoming sites are in his district, which includes the CoreSite campus in Reston and offices for Amazon Web Services (AWS) in Herndon.
With AWS pledging to invest $35 billion for new data center campuses in Virginia, the facilities could “be beneficial from a tax-base perspective and perhaps even a building repurposing perspective,” McKay said in his board matter, which was also sponsored by Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck and Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith.
“The region continues to receive requests for more data centers due to our unique location related to the internet’s fiber infrastructure,” McKay said.
However, as the industry’s footprint has grown, so have concerns about the consequences for the environment, local neighborhoods and the power grid.
Citing their impacts on air and water quality as well as electricty usage and greenhouse gas emissions, the county’s Environmental Quality Advisory Council (EQAC) urged the board to develop a plan requiring data centers to use renewable energy “to the extent feasible” and report all emissions and pollutants.
“Actions to mitigate threats to community health and minimize the need for future cleanup of water by County wastewater treatment facilities and Fairfax Water should be undertaken,” EQAC Chair Larry Zaragoza said in the March 13 memo. “Moreover, these steps are important to provide the data centers with clear expectations to reduce environmental impacts.”
A West Coast company has officially leased data center space at 12100 Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston.
According to the Washington Business Journal, which first reported the deal, Backblaze, a San Mateo-based company, is occupying part of space that owned and run by CoreSite, a information technology company that’s based in Denver.
Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, says the lease offers further “validation” that the county is a choice location for strategic data center use.
“Data centers are choosing Fairfax County for great reasons — real estate availability, power availability, technical talent pipeline, proximity to customers, and our pro-business approach,” he told FFXnow. “The diversity of our business base, which includes data centers, is one of our greatest strengths and has a direct impact on our thriving and stable economy here in Fairfax County.”
CoreSite’s Reston data center is part of a campus with more than 1.3 million square feet of colocation space at full build-out, according to the company.
The campus can reportedly provide access to “any cloud, network or managed service providers you need to support your digital transformation journey in the U.S. and abroad.” It’s being marketed as an attractive alternative to Ashburn with tax incentives and commute options.
Here’s more from WBJ on the lease:
Backblaze started storing live customer data at the Reston data center on Dec. 7, said Gleb Budman, the company’s chair, co-founder and CEO. He said in an interview that his company had been eyeing an expansion into Northern Virginia because “it’s often considered the heart of the internet.”
Neither Backblaze nor CoreSite would disclose how much space Backblaze is occupying or any other terms of their agreement. Budman said only that the lease is a “multiyear” deal.
Backblaze typically uses third-party data centers and co-location facilities to store its customers’ information. One of its key services is allowing its customers to store data at one regional site and access it at another, and the Reston facility provides a closer option for Backblaze’s East Coast customers as well as a replication option for customers elsewhere, Budman said.
“When it’s full…we’ll have over an exabyte of customer data,” Budman said. (An exabyte is equal to one billion gigabytes. To put that into perspective, the average smartphone can store 64 gigabytes of data.)
Photo via Jordan Harrison/Unsplash
One of two options — a data center or a warehouse — is proposed for a nearly 79-acre parcel in Chantilly on what used to be called Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway.
The property owner is seeking Fairfax County’s permission to rezone a nearly 5.4-acre portion of the property for a data center or warehouse, according to an Oct. 3 application. The project is coined Chantilly Premier.
“The proposed development would encourage business and commercial endeavors in the area and add to the diverse industrial and commercial tax base surrounding Dulles Airport,” the application says.
Identified as PDCREF2 Chantilly LLC, the applicant says it’s open to dedicating the unused portion of the massive, undeveloped property — known as parcel six — to the county for preservation.
The site is currently zoned for two uses: highway commercial and general industrial. It’s located outside of the floodplain area roughly 1,200 feet west of Route 50’s intersection with Stonecroft Blvd.
The proposal would rezone most of the area that is not a floodplain for industrial uses in order to develop a 402,000-square-foot data center or a 150,000-square-foot warehouse.
Roughly 92% of parcel six will remain undisturbed.
The data center would include 50 parking spaces and two loading spaces. The building would be mostly screened from view from the highway and neighboring properties, according to the application.
The warehouse option is less intense, allowing 164 parking spaces and 30 loading spaces. It would also be screened mostly from view.
The application does not favor one option of the other, saying either use would “add to the diversity of industrial uses in the area and complement the automobile oriented uses to the east.”
The county has not yet accepted the application for review. It is in the initial planning phases.
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Rappelling Stunt Supports Fairfax County Nonprofit — “On Thursday and Friday, about 80 people, including two local elected officials, a Washington Post reporter, and a member of the D.C. Divas women’s football team, dressed in full pads and uniform, rappelled down the side of the Crystal City Hilton to raise funds and awareness for New Hope Housing.” [The Washington Post]
County to Choose COVID-19 Memorial Site by September — “The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is positioning the county as one of the first localities in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. to build a permanent pandemic remembrance. The Fairfax County Park Authority recently submitted a memorandum to the board, summarizing project details, including design considerations, the project timeline and next steps, including the memorial’s location.” [WTOP]
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FCPD Traffic Campaign Yields Citations — “On Tuesday [May 3], officers from our Traffic Division wrote over 100 citations and warnings during our extra enforcement campaign in the Annandale area. This campaign runs through May 22 and is geared towards making our roads safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers.” [FCPD/Facebook]
Afghan Refugees Look for Jobs in Tysons — “Job seekers, like 21-year-old Mohammad Fasih Yaqoobi, had the chance to meet with more than 30 employers hiring for roles at all skill levels. In Yaqoobi’s case, the fair represented an opportunity to provide for his family, who have already lived a lifetime of unimaginable circumstances.” [NBC4]
Chapel Road Closed in Clifton Starting Today — “Chapel Road (Route 641) between Water Street and Yates Ford Road (Route 612) will be closed to through traffic, weather permitting, Monday, May 9 through Wednesday, May 11 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day to replace a stormwater pipe, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [VDOT]
It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 60 and low of 42. Sunrise at 6:03 am and sunset at 8:10 pm. [Weather.gov]