'Civil War' Documentarian Opposes PW Digital Gateway Near Manassas Battlefield

Documentarian Ken Burns sends letter to Prince William Supervisors


Ken Burns, the renowned documentarian who created The Civil War series, wrote a letter to Prince William County's Board of Supervisors, Jan. 5, encouraging supervisors to protect the landscape around the Manassas National Battlefield.

Addressing the letter to Chair Ann Wheeler, Burns pleads for the supervisors to reject a plan that would bring more than 2,000 acres for data centers near, "this hallowed ground." 

The proposal for the Prince William Digital Gateway would rezone land on Pageland Lane and near the Battlefield as industrial. The new designation would allow the BiCounty Parkway, a major road of state-wide interest to connect Loudoun and Prince William counties in Northern Virginia. 

The new land use designation would allow for multiple data centers and other industrial uses in what is currently zoned Agricultural and Low-Density Residential at 1-home per every 10 acres. 

In the letter, Burns quotes the Superintendent of the Manassas National Battlefield Park, who called the proposal, "the greatest threat to the Manassas National Battlefield Park in nearly three decades." 

"As a student and chronicler of American history for more than 40 years, I can attest to how fragile our precious heritage is and how susceptible it can be to the ravages of 'progress,'" wrote Burns. 

"I learned while making my documentary series The Civil War in the late 1980s-- and again when I made my 2009 series on the history of the national parks- how crucial the preservation of up to 2,133 acres of data centers will have on this hallowed ground."

The letter is being shared by conservation groups in and around Prince William County that are advocating against the Prince William Digital Gateway. 

Members of conservation groups are concerned about preserving the land around the Battlefield in order to preserve its heritgage, history, viewscape,  natural beauty, ecological systems, the recreation it affords residents and visitors. They argue that in protecting the Battlefield and other county parks, they are protecting the local tourism industry and tax revenue it provides. Many residents prefer to live in or near a rural landscape than and industrial one. 

Some residents are also concerned about the effect that new industrial builds and roads would have on ground water and the Occoquan reservoir. 

Those in favor of the proposal note that data centers, unlike residential neighborhoods, do not require many services, nor do they bring in much traffic. Data centers provide some additional tax revenue that would help ease the residential tax burden, which makes it one of the county's targeted industries. 

The plan for rezoning around the Battlefield would allow for more data centers in to those permitted in the data center overlay district.  The overlay district is currently under review. 

The Planning Office will be hosting an in-person community meeting on the Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District Comprehensive Review at 7:00 pm on Thursday, January 20, 2022, at the Beacon Hall Conference Center on the George Mason University SciTech Campus in Manassas. 

Letter located above in image slider. 

UPDATE: Jan. 10 at 12:25 p.m.

The Coalition to Protect Prince William County, mentioned the Burn's Letter in its latest news letter, emailed on Jan. 19.  

The Coalition also lists dates and times of community meetings regarding the proposed Prince William Digital Gateway. 

The Coalition to Protect Prince William County
MAJOR BREAKING NEWS! Ken Burns, nationally renowned documentarian and historian has joined our rising voices in opposition to the Data Center Development in the rural crescent that threatens our natural resources, including our coveted Manassas National Battlefield Park.  See our press release below.

On Friday, Chair Wheeler notified everyone in the county that "Our COVID-19 community transmission rate and positivity rate are staggering."  In spite of this, she has scheduled two community meetings this month on data center plans:  County announces 2 community meetings later this month on data center plans | News | princewilliamtimes.com

These meetings must not be held until residents can safely participate.  Send your email now demanding common sense and good choices.

You can sign up to participate remotely at tomorrow's 2 pm Citizen Time during the Supervisor's Board meeting to share your thoughts on their process (Register by 5 pm Monday Jan. 10).

The list of organizations and agencies opposed to the industrializing the Rural Crescent along Pageland continues to grow:  

Manassas National Battlefield
State of Virginia Forestry Department
Watershed Management
PWC Historical Commission
Prince William Conservation Alliance
Piedmont Environmental Council
Great Fall Sierra Club
National Parks Conservation Association
Coalition for Smarter Growth
Virginia Native Plant Society
American Battlefield Trust
Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area
Va. Delegate Danica Roem
Va. Senator Dan Helmer

More news:
Prince William Times: Filmmaker Ken Burns warns of ‘devastating impact’ of data centers near Manassas battlefield 

InsideNoVa: HIGH-POWERED BATTLE Data center proposal pits Pageland residents against neighbors

Letter: Rising COVID-19 cases should delay rural crescent meetings, decisions – Prince William Times

OPINION: Supervisor Candland Has Not Been Candid About Land Use | Bristow Beat

Letter: Tony Virgilio, Leesburg - Loudoun Now


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