UPDATE: Citizen Activists Celebrate Cancelation of QTS Meeting, Criticize Gateway Plans

Critics not impressed by proffers


This article has been updated, May 3 at 3:12 p.m., to include a response from QTS. 

The Hilton Garden Inn at Haymarket has confirmed the hotel canceled the QTS Community Outreach meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, May 2 at 6 p.m.

QTS is one of the two data center development companies that is requesting to build the Prince William Digital Gateway on Pageland Lane near the Manassas Battlefield in the Gainesville District. 

The company just released the third draft of its proposal and invited the Gainesville-Haymarket area community to attend a community meeting to review those plans. 

According to Bill Murray, CEO of Integral Hospitality Solutions, The Hilton Inn at Haymarket canceled the outreach meeting to allow their hotel and restaurant guests to have a peaceful and relaxing experience. He also learned an "active protest," was planned for outside the hotel.  

"We just couldn't have that kind of disruption. We don’t have an opinion because that’s not what we do," Murray said. 

This is QTS's second Haymarket-area community outreach meeting that has been canceled.  Bull Run Middle School canceled the data center developer's previous meeting due to a scheduling conflict.

The citizen protest planned for before 6 p.m. outside the Hilton Inn had also been canceled, as well as the media conference to feature Del. Danica Roem (D-13th), Gainesville Supervisor Bob Weir-R and Kyle Hart, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director of the National Parks Conservation Association. 

QTS Data Centers Director of Public Policy Nick Blessing issued the following statement after QTS’s second community open house was canceled by the Hilton Garden Inn at Haymarket due to the possibility of “civil disorder."

“QTS is disappointed that as a result of the planned disruption by a small group of opponents, the event venue was compelled to cancel. As a result, community members have been deprived of the opportunity to learn more about the project’s enormous benefits to the county," Blessing* said. 

 “Constructive public discourse is essential to our civil process, and QTS will seek out additional opportunities to listen to our neighbors and share the story of one of the county’s most significant economic development opportunities in decades."

Blessing reminds people that the Prince William Digital Gateway has much to offer the community, especially monetarily. 

"In addition to creating an estimated $470 million in annual tax revenue to support schools, first responders, and other county services, the project prioritizes the historical preservation and environmental protection of the region. We are grateful for the opportunity to share the benefits of this project with the community and are committed to moving forward as a considerate and supportive partner.”  

Yesterday, The Coalition to Protect Prince William County sent a press release in which Executive Director Elena Schlossberg considers the cancelation a win. 

"Apparently the Hilton in the Town of Haymarket doesn't want QTS either and thus informed them they were unwanted," said Schlossberg, believing that the hotel is reflecting community sentiment. 

"The community recognizes QTS is employing typical developer tactics: wear down citizens, and take us away from our families and our regular lives, all in hopes that we will give up," Schlossberg wrote. 

Kathy Kulick Vice Chair of the Prince William HOA Roundtable said she realizes it is not that the Hilton is against QTS.

“Yes of course the protest had played a factor, but it’s also the entire community. A lot of people enjoy the restaurant and its smaller events. If the protest was not organized, no, they wouldn’t have canceled," she said, offering her opinion. 

She added that they were not protesting the hotel. Bristow Beat has witnessed various anti-data center protests and they have always remained civil. 

Meanwhile, Schlossberg emphasized the impact that the Coalition and its allies are making. 

"Hundreds of citizens were ready to turn out today to protect our homes, our history, our natural resources, and the reliability of our electrical grid. QTS is not welcome here.  No matter when they plan to reschedule – we will show up." 

Evaluating the new proposal of the Prince William Digital Gateway

Friday, QTS sent out a press release highlighting the best aspects of their development. Aspects such as open space, buffers, and trails, Then there is the road widening of Pageland Lane, which includes traffic circles, overpasses, and multiuse bike/walking paths. 

"As outlined in the plan, the Prince William Digital Gateway is the most carefully planned, holistically designed, environmentally sensitive, and historically oriented data center campus in the country. QTS is a partner to the Prince William Community and is committed to providing benefits that will protect and enhance the county," said the QTS press release. 

Photos show a picturesque area where people would want to work and even spend time outside enjoying nature. QTS says that according to its viewshed analysis nowhere will people be able to see their buildings from the battlefield or Heritage Hunt. 

"The Comprehensive Plan only required 14 viewpoints, and QTS went above and beyond to include an additional sensitive Battlefield location in its analysis," QTS said. 

Kulick said she did not see anything to convince her the digital gateway was palatable and believes the photos are mainly for PR. 

"It's not going to look like those pictures. It's not parkland, it's an industrial zone." She asks who would want to ride their horse passed data centers. 

However, she was pleasantly surprised that QTS recognized the National Registry of Historic Place She believes this is key to protecting the area, even if it is not on the county registry. 

QTS said it is dedicated to the preservation of historical and cultural artifacts and sites, including marked and unmarked cemeteries. 

"ERM and WSSI have completed a combination of 19,000+ hand-dug test pits throughout the entire corridor to ensure the preservation and enhancement of the noteworthy historical sites," QTS said. 

The data center company also wants to create historic sites to be cultural resources for the county. 

"QTS is creating a series of historical sites that don’t currently exist and are not publicly accessible. These sites will allow for public access and educational opportunities for Prince William County elementary, middle school, and high schoolers to learn a lot more about an area that's currently not available to them."

However, Gainesville Supervisor Bob Weir-R did not agree cultural centers and more trails are necessarily positive, saying the data centers are, "delivering less and putting more on the county.”

He explained that trails, parks, or cultural centers would become the county's responsibility to maintain, and further, the developers are making plans for land which they do not own. 

A representative for QTS noted that the data developers are offering to pay for the entirety of the road expansion and improvement project along Pageland Lane, which will cost an estimated $160 million. That is something the county certainly wants. 

Kulick is also concerned about how everything will play out in the future. She suspects that after approval, developers may ask for more buildings. If the supervisors are agreeable because they want to keep the tax money flowing, the residents and park could be out of luck. 

Then, it should be ignored that within the new proposal, the buildings would be taller. They were originally going to be only 45 feet tall. Now QTS is asking for 60-70 feet To the north, Compass plans to construct buildings 70-90 feet tall (over 100 feet, counting rooftop equipment.)

The good news is the estimate of 90+ buildings is now incorrect. The bad news is that the same area will just be redistributed, making each building louder and more likely to be seen. 

QTS and Compass have also done a viewshed analysis and say that at the proposed height the data centers will be hidden from view. Three data centers can be barely seen from Heritage Hunt in winter, according to Compass. 

Schlossberg wants to know more about the actual buildings, not the proffers, believing it's ironic that developers are focused more on equestrian trails than telling people how many buildings they are proposing. 

"We believe these facts are missing because knowing the truth will prove this monstrosity does not belong and will be highly impactful in our areas which include critical resources," said Schlossberg.

She also wants people to remember the grid already cannot supply enough energy to run the existing data centers in Northern Virginia according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. 

"But the biggest question is HOW will Dominion Energy meet the power demand of what we calculate can be upwards of 8.6 gigawatts?  We know who pays for that infrastructure - citizens. Virginia will not, cannot meet our clean Virginia goals if we ignore the impacts of this Data Center proliferation everywhere and anywhere."
"By comparison, Lake Anna has two reactors, North and South.  Together the reactors generate nearly 1.89 gigawatts of power, which is distributed mainly to the greater Richmond area and to Northern Virginia." 

"Citizens WILL NOT STOP protecting our community, our county, and our state," Schlossberg said. 

*Attribution of quote has been corrected. 

QTS, data centers, Prince William Digital Gateway, Prince William County, outreach meeting, Hilton Inn, Haymarket, Gainesville, Virginia, Elena Schlossberg, Kathy Kulick, Bill Murray, Integral Hospitality Solutions, Coalition to Protect Prince William County


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