Catharpin resident and former Marine Kenneth Allen Knarr announced Sunday that he is running for Chair At-large of the Prince William County Supervisors as a Republican. He will challenge current Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson-R who announced her nomination last week.
“I’m a Marine with over 20 years of service and four combat tours. Never did I think I would run for public office but in an era of contentious rhetoric and career politicians we need a fresh new voice who fights equally and justly for all 486 thousand county residents," Knarr said in a YouTube video announcing his run.
Knarr is one of the outspoken Pageland Lane residents who are collectively selling their land to data center developers to build the Prince William Digital Gateway. Residents are being offered $1 million per acre and most own 10 acres. Knarr did not mention data centers in his announcement, instead highlighting his military record.
“I want to bring forward the conservative values of service, honor and commitment to our community. I will reforge a sense of civility, positivity, and peaceful stability to our public discourse,” said Knarr. “As your chair, I’ll fight for safer streets, better schools and a stronger local economy; and beginning on day one, I will fight to appeal the meals tax.”
"Together we can build our community into a wonderful place where everybody can live, work and raise a family," Knarr concluded the video.
While the digital gateway seems to be only one issue, it is the largest current issue in the county. It would bring approximately 90 data center buildings on two campuses and approximately 2,139 acres near the Manassas National Battlefield.
If Knarr were to be elected chair, he would likely have to recuse himself from key data center votes, especially on the Prince William Digital Gateway. According to Commonwealth Attorney Amy Ashworth, it would have been a conflict of interest for Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland (another Pageland property owner) to have voted on digital gateway items. Candland recuse himself some several votes and ultimately resigned (although only after the vote on the Comp Plan. He was absent from that meeting, having already announced his resignation.)
But Knarr has never hidden his support for the digital gateway. He said it was in the public interest because it would bring in significant revenue for the county.
“The fiscal impact of the data centers on our local economy cannot be overstated, with close to half-billion dollars of county tax revenue coming from this industry,” said the Loudoun Virginia Department of Economic Development.
One-third of Loudoun’s revenue comes from data centers, nonetheless, even Loudoun found its $60 million short of projections in Fiscal Year 2023 due to aging equipment. In 2021, they exceeded budgeted amounts by $11 million due to new buildings.
But Loudoun County taxes its data centers at $4.20 for every $100 of the assessed value of computer equipment. Prince William County has proposed raising its business tangible computer peripheral tax from $1.15* to $1.80 per $100 of assessed value. Lawson and Coles Supervisor Yesli Vega-R proposed a tax of $2.15 and that option is still on the table, serving as a ceiling of how high the county could go this budget season.
Knarr's view on data centers may appeal to those outside of Gainesville. He has said the Prince William Digital Gateway would benefit people all over the county, those of all races, ethnicities and income levels. And, recently, Knarr said people who oppose data centers near residential homes should support the Prince William Digital Gateway instead, due to its removed rural location.
However, the Prince William Digital Gateway would be near communities, specifically, it would be adjacent to the 55 and older community Heritage Hunt in Gainesville. And the biggest argument against the Prince William Digital Gateway is that it is adjacent to the Manassas Battlefield, a national park, and Conway Robinson state park. Moreover, generally, those opposed to the digital gateway and data centers near homes and schools have banded together, supporting each other in protests.
Knarr supported Democrats on the board in the past year and has donated $9,221 to Democrats in local elections, according to VPAP. He has not made any political contributions to Republicans, nor any candidates at all between 2015 and 2021.
With a county in flux, with not only data centers to consider, but the development of new residential communities in the rural areas, voters will have to consider their votes carefully this year.
While Lawson has solidly been in opposition to the Prince William Digital Gateway; she approved data center developments people now say are abhorrent, such as the data center planned for around Amberleigh Station on Linton Hall Road.
Lawson said she now agrees with her Brentsville constituents that it was the wrong location. She notes no one provided pushback at the time, but residents say they did not know the entire picture due to nondisclosure agreements.
At a recent town hall, some residents said they could not forgive her for that, and would not vote for her again.
In her announcement Lawson spoke out against Chair Ann Wheeler’s record on data centers, saying, she was “prioritization of a multi-billion dollar data center industry over residents,” and was “giving big business tax breaks on the backs of Prince William families.”
Lawson has also been criticized for her conservative opinions and lack of support for LGBTQ+ people.
Incumbent Chair Ann Wheeler-D has described data centers as a great opportunity for the county. She is being challenged in the primary by Deshundra Jefferson-D, who stated she opposes the Prince William Digital Gateway.
“Who’s going to want to live by data centers?" Jefferson asked in a Prince William times article. "The people who can afford to, will move. That will lower property values, which will in turn lower tax revenue for residents."
Knarr's campaign website is kennforchair.com.
*Correction made. The computer and peripheral tax rate is 1.15 per $100 of the assessed value.
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NO to both candidates. They say one thing publicly and do another in secret. This guy just wants to get rich by voting to approve the Gateway, just like Candland. Lawson doesn't care either way, and, after she loses this election, she is done politically.
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