Prince William Conservation Groups oppose PW Digital Gateway

Gainesville District Left without Vote on PW Digital Gateway Comp Plan Amendment

Proposal goes beyond data-centers to propose BiCounty Parkway next to the Battlefield


Gainesville Magisterial District Supervisor Pete Candland announced, Oct. 25, that he has signed on with neighbors along Pageland Lane to have their properties rezoned as flex/industrial. He now must recuse himself from a vote on redesigning the land use around the Manassas Battlefield, and has agreed to do so. 

The Comprehensive Plan Amendment proposes not only data centers along Pageland, but also to create a “Tech/Flex” corridor. It would allow for commercial, industrial, and a heavily trafficked thoroughfare that could become part of the BiCounty Parkway to Loudoun County. 

Candland was a staunch defender of the Rural Crescent. However. Without his vote, conversationalists fear it paves the way (pun intended) for the BiCounty Parkway in rural Gainesville.

In a letter to constituents on Facebook, Candland said it was a very difficult decision. The Candlands alleged they were the last homeowners to sign on to the letter of intent. Candland said, he did not want his neighborhood to be, “an island in a sea of data centers.” 

The supervisor also noted that the Democrats, five of eight board members, have continuously voted together for data centers, inferring the outcome was immenient. 

He suggested Gainesville citizens contact Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson-R to represent their interests as she has always been a strong defender of the Rural Crescent. 

However, local conservations want a vote. Elena Schlossberg, a board member with the Prince William Conservation Alliance, told Bristow Beat that before they only needed to convince one more supervisor, now they will need to convince two unless Candland is replaced (or something unexpected happens). But he has no plans of stepping down. 

Winery at Sunshine Ridge Farms, Lake Manassas, Gainesville
Winery at Sunshine Ridge Farms, Lake Manassas, Gainesville

The lack of representation was shared by members of six conservation groups that met, Nov. 10, to express their opposition to the PW Digital Gateway. They met at the scenice Winery at Sunshine Ridge Farms, which sits on Lake Manassas in Gainesville's Rural Crescent.

Groups included Prince William Conservation AlliancePiedmont Environmental CouncilAmerican Battlefield TrustNational Parks Conservation AssociationVirginia Piedmont Heritage Area AssociationSierra Club Great Falls GroupVirginia Native Plant SocietyCoalition to Protect Prince William.

“Treasured recreational amenities are threatened by applications to allow industrial development on approximately 2,000 acres in the Rural Crescent and adjacent to the Manassas National Battlefield Park and Conway Robinson State Forest,” stated the event announcement. “In addition, the County is considering expanding the Data Center Opportunity Overlay District into the rural areas of Prince William, including a site adjacent to Prince William Forest (National) Park.”

Attendees at the event called out that Candland should step down. One attendee said, “I like the guy,” but he still needs to go.

‘It’s not partisan,’ someone shouted. The room was full of Democrats and Republicans. Someone yelled that Chair Ann Wheeler should go as well. 

Groups felt the plan threatens the Occoquan watershed, and the overall character of the county. And it was not only the threat of data centers industrializing the area. 

Schlossberg told the crowd, “it’s not binary.” She said there is room for industry, in the data-center overlay district, and expanded commercial space via smart growth. 

Preliminary Step for BiCounty Parkway

Data centers moving into Gainesville has been discussed at length. However, the public is less aware of the plan to make "PW Digital Gateway," the BiCounty Parkway. The Comp Plan amendment shows it is not speculation, but seems to be the overall goal of the rezoning. 

The Comp Plan Amendment for the PW Digital Gateway, states that the BiCounty Parkway, a connection between Prince William County and Loudoun County, is a key regional goal.

“The extension of the NorthStar Boulevard down Pageland Lane to connect with I-66 is an integral component of the overall Northern Virginia North-South Corridor, designated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) as a Corridor of Statewide Significance (CoSS) in May 2011," states the document.

“As described in a presentation to the CTB, the North-South CoSS receives a high priority rating from the VDOT, NVTA, and Loudoun County...."

"The NorthStar Boulevard extension remains #1 on Loudoun County’s goals for connection to Prince William County, and the NVTA ranks the NorthStar extension #6 on their list of regional projects."

"The SmartScale ranking of the project continues to obtain higher score over time and thereby improving its chance of funding.” 

If the land is rezoned “Tech/Flex,” as per the Comp Plan Amendment, it would yield 13,417,037 feet of office space that could be used for commercial or industrial use. 

And planning staff noted that they could NOT use the existing infrastructure. “Pageland is a 2-lane local road in the thoroughfare Plan and the Rt 234 ByPass North Extension was removed from the Comp Plan in 2015.”

The corridor is expected to yield a high amount of traffic, including trucking. 

“The Tech/Flex development represents an increase of 12,735 AM peak hour, 15,759 PM peak hour, and 140,464-weekday daily vehicle trips when compared to the existing planned land use,” according to Comprehensive Plan Amendment Initiation, First Submission. 

Nonetheless the planning staff recommended the amendment, noting it meets the needs of the priorities of the board. 

“This battle is about data centers AND other industrial uses beyond data,” said Jeanine Lawson in a statement to Bristow Beat. “Speakers at the PW Conservation Alliance event pointed out that the land use designation requested by the landowners would allow far more than just data centers. That designation permits a wide range of industrial development. This would open up the proposed area under consideration to warehouses and other intensive industrial uses which generate considerable traffic, including trucks, and would likely invite construction of the BiCounty Parkway," she said. 


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