Chair Ann Wheeler-D has tentatively scheduled the QTS portion of the Prince William Digital Gateway rezoning for Nov. 21 at the legal behest of applicant and data center developer QTS. This means that rezoning would go before the current board during its “lame duck” session.
Gainesville Supervisor Bob Weir-R, who only found out about the scheduling of the rezoning this week, said it did not progress through the appropriate channels.
On July 28, QTS’s agent and counsel Antonio Calabrese sent an email to Prince William County’s Acting Planning Director David McGettigan, asserting that QTS was invoking the one-year limit as per Va. Code 15-2-2286. A.7 and county code section 32-700.43, both of which say the application for rezoning should be voted upon within 12 months’ time.
He noted that QTS North and South rezoning projects were formally accepted on July 11, 2022; thereby, the one-year time limit has lapsed. Additionally, the rezoning was submitted well before that date. He urges the board to hold the vote before the end of the year.
“While not hereby granting any extension nor waiving any of our rights under these provisions, we are respectfully requesting that the County schedule and conclude the Planning Commission and Board of County Supervisors public hearings on these two cases as soon as feasible and certainly before the end of the calendar year,” Calabrese wrote.
The end of the year happens to be at the end of the term of the current board with the election occurring on Nov. 7, 2023. Compass, the other data center developer, was not included in the request.
Chair Wheeler, County Attorney Michelle Roble, County Executive Christopher Shorter, Deputy General Counsel Rita D’Agostino and Director of Public Policy & Economics for QTS Nick Blessing were all copied in the email.
Wheeler emailed Chris Shorter on Aug. 30, a Sunday, informing him that she has scheduled the rezoning hearing and vote for Nov. 21, 2023. She copied those who were copied in Calabrese’s email.
“While we are now past this year it is my understanding, and I am affirming, that Prince William County needs to bring this case forward in a timely manner as requested,” Wheeler stated. “Therefore I am scheduling these two QTS rezoning cases noted below to be heard by the Board of County Supervisors at our November 21, 2023 meeting and they are now on that agenda.”
“I would appreciate your (Shorter’s) assistance in working with all relevant agencies and our planning staff to conclude our staff evaluation/recommendations and schedule a Planning Commission hearing in a timely manner so that we stay on track to hear these cases as now scheduled for the Board of County Supervisors on November 21, 2023,” she wrote.
Wheeler added that it might not be that exact date depending upon other factors.
However, Weir just learned of the scheduling on Aug. 15., despite the fact that the proposed PW Digital Gateway is located within his district.
On Aug. 16 Weir sent County Executive Shorter an email, which he forwarded to media outlets, saying he should have been notified immediately, and that he does not believe it was only an oversight.
“Your cavalier attitude with respect to my lack of notification and your refusal to forward the correspondence to my office immediately cannot and will not be tolerated,” Weir stated. “The residents and taxpayers of the County and particularly those of the Gainesville district demand better and I should not have to go through the County Attorney’s office to secure correspondence that directly impacts the district.”
Weir states the chair alone cannot rightfully affirm the validity of the applicant’s legal assertion.
“The demand should have been reviewed by the County Attorney’s office and an appropriate opinion forwarded to the BOC in its entirety. Anything less falls outside of accepted standard practice and presents a greater possibility of litigation,” Weir stated.
Weir was elected via a special election by a large margin, fueled by those advocating against the Prince William Digital Gateway and data center that would be housed close to schools, homes and parks.
Weir continued: “It is no wonder that I and the public perceive the process as broken and that elected officials have seemingly placed their thumbs heavily on the scale.”
Weir goes on to say that Acting Long Range Planning Director was “hung out to dry by denying him the opportunity to present customary staff reports, background information and cost estimates on associated CPAs, has exhausted my capacity for pardoning such behavior.”
He is referring to how the county planning staff did not have a presentation to go along with the Historic Commission’s majority request that the Pageland Lane area be considered for a historic land study.
Several senior members of the Prince William Planning and Development staff resigned in the past year, which anti-digital gateway advocates find suspicious. Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson told Bristow Beat she believes it is a result of them being pressured by the chair on data center projects.
Lawson also advocated that the “lame duck” board not hear contentious data center projects, but the Democratic majority on the board struck down her proposal.
One can assume a new board might lean differently on the issue. Wheeler lost in the Democratic primary to Deshundra Jefferson, who opposes the Prince William Digital Gateway in its current form and opposes data centers near homes and schools.
Lawson is the Republican candidate, and she holds similar sentiments, especially since she opposed the digital gateway since the beginning.
But Weir also argued that the Chair should not set the planning schedule, that is the responsibility of the Planning Director based upon its ability to accommodate the applicant.
"Rather by ordinance, that responsibility lies with the Planning Director per Sec. 32-700.41. which provides that “'he “Planning Director shall not be required to refer such application immediately, but shall consider the applicant's preference, the planning commission's schedule, and the appropriate use of County staff and prior to referring an application to the planning commission 'shall cause a report to be prepared for the commission's review, and such report shall include a recommendation on the application.'"
“Clearly, that is not the case in this instance and the impacts on the planning commission’s schedule and the appropriate use of county staff has not been considered,” Weir said.
The planning department was also late to know of the scheduling, Weir stated
And even though the QTS application for rezoning was accepted in July of last year, Weir said in an email that there is still work to be done on it because there are still questions that need to be answered.
Bristow Beat has reached out to County Executive Chris Shorter on Aug. 18 and will update if he provides a response.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here