QTS Resubmits Request for Digital Gateway, Highlighting Community Features

Residents remain skeptical of new plan


Data center development company QTS submitted the 3rd draft of its application for the Prince William Digital Gateway to the Prince William County planning department, Friday. 

The plans for data centers along Pageland Lane in the Gainesville District have been extremely controversial. It would be located in the Rural Crescent; however, per recent changes to the comprehensive plan, the area is slating to become industrial. 

While the plan is 1,500 pages, in its press release QTS highlights open space and other features that benefit community members and visitors, such as QTS highlights parkland, open space, green areas, buffers, cultural areas, cultural preservation, and road improvements.

Data center developers want to allow people the opportunity to review the positive aspects, and not expect their campus would be the typical data center campus.  

While most of those features existed within the original version, and some open space is mandated due to streams and wetlands, QTS and Compass plan to help the county pay for installing new community features, such as historical and cultural sites. 

The most significant changes to the plan include an increase in the size of the proposed buildings from 45-70 feet in some areas. Also, QTS has requested a waiver so that many aspects of its development can be approved without the need for a Special Use Permit. QTS has not responded to questions about the waiver. 

Details of that new plan as described by QTS are listed below the introduction. 

Representatives of QTS believe their new plan presents a holistic approach that offers valuable resources to residents and visitors.

Within its press release, QTS tries to demonstrate that it has been sensitive to the Manassas National Battlefield and the Heritage Hunt community. However, the National Park Service does not want taller buildings. The Prince William HOA Roundtable also continues to stand firm against the Digital Gateway. 

Kyle Hart, Mid-Atlantic representative for the National Park Conservation Association stated his association continues to oppose the Digital Gateway in its current location. 

"As you continue to go down this road, NPCA and our many partners would urge you to look for a more suitable location for data centers. It is certainly not too late to tactically retreat from this project." 

In a community presentation on Tuesday, Compass, the other data center developer involved in the gateway project, presented its plan, highlighting road improvements, preservation, open space, buffers, and trails. 

Compass estimated it would house 12-16 buildings on its properties. Between QTS and Compass that would mean approximately 30-40 buildings, not the 90 Dr. John Lyver had estimated.

But these buildings would be much taller. They could increase from 45 feet to 70 feet in the QTS southern section, and from 70-90 feet in the northern/Compass section. 

Like Compass, QTS tried to highlight open spaces, nature, and cultural resources. Their design includes plans for a southern park and resource centers to honor African American history. 

Gainesville Supervisor Bob Weir said that some of those proffers include parkland that neither of the developers owns. Should the county acquire the land,  it would need to pay for the upkeep of parks, trails, cultural centers, and roads. He describes the plan as "delivering less and putting more on the county.”

He said he still has to wade through the 1,500 pages, but sees that where they claim to reduce the height of the buildings from 70 to 60 feet, well, those buildings were initially only supposed to be 45 feet, and could become 70 again with the addition of equipment. 

QTS said it has conducted a viewshed analysis, which demonstrates that the buildings would not be seen from the park. 

Some residents said they remain concerned that proffers could be changed at a later time by the board. Proffers that would recognize the county noise limits, allow the developers to build taller buildings, or even add more buildings. 

Kathy Kulick of the HOA Roundtable cautions that if data centers cannot meet noise requirements the county will not have much recourse because one cannot shut down a data center. 

Kulick is encouraged that QTS notes areas listed on the National Historic registry. QTS also agreed to a shovel test to check for caskets and artifacts. 

Elena Schlossberg, Executive Director of the Coalition to Protect Prince William County focuses on the need for increased electrical infrastructure and how backup diesel generators would spread toxic fumes. 

She also points out that just because they have talked with the National Park Service and other organizations does not they supports their plan.

“First off, numerous organizations from the National Parks Conservation Association to the Prince William County Historical Commission have opposed QTS’s data center industrialization from the beginning. QTS’s response to their concerns has been to make last-minute attempts to exempt themselves from the rules – including seeking waivers from the legally required Special Use Permit, from height restrictions, from a wildlife corridor, from stormwater runoff… in other words, anything that holds their industrial blight in check.”

QTS planned to hold a community outreach meeting, Tuesday, but the Hilton Garden Inn canceled the event due to a planned protest. 

This article may be updated as Bristow Beat is seeking further information on changes made to the application. 

The following is a press release courtesy of QTS

On November 1, 2022, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors adopted a Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) for the Prince William Digital Gateway. The Digital Gateway represents one of the largest economic investments in Prince William County. On April 28, 2023, QTS Data Centers (QTS) will file its third submission to the Board of County Supervisors for the development of this plan.

The submission represents 2.5 years of extensive due diligence and over 1,500 pages of analyses, studies, and exhibits to carefully consider every aspect of the Digital Gateway, address every request from county agencies, and document how QTS has met and exceeded the county’s adopted CPA.

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.


Viewshed Analysis

  • QTS has completed a detailed viewshed analysis to ensure its buildings are not visible from 15 viewpoints within the Manassas Battlefield National Park, Heritage Hunt, and Catharpin Valley Estates to the northwest.
    • In the adjoining Heritage Hunt, an area outside the CPA viewpoints requirement, QTS is proposed to preserve 34+ acres of permanently protected forest contiguous to the area. Even in the dead of winter, residents will not be able to view the data centers.
    • The Comprehensive Plan only required 14 viewpoints, and QTS went above and beyond to include an additional sensitive Battlefield location in its analysis.

 Open Space

  • 35+ percent of the 2,139 acres in the Prince William Digital Gateway will be preserved open space, consisting of significant tree save & stream preservation protection, reforestation, buffers, berms, and landscaping. Compass said that data buildings will be visible from one spot in Heritage Hunt during winter. 
  • Note: the typical open space for this type of plan is 15 percent.

Historical Preservation

  • 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 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.

Pageland Lane

  • Pageland Lane is inadequate today because of regional and truck traffic. The Digital Gateway will reimagine and redesign this 4-mile corridor as a scenic parkway, with the goal of helping rectify the challenges that have existed for several years. This represented a $160 million, multi-year, multi-phased, transportation infrastructure investment.
  • Improvements to Pageland Lane were required prior to development. The Digital Gateway development ensures that Pageland Lane is restricted to a local collector road as opposed to a larger regional high-volume roadway.
  • Rather than default to a series of typical, unattractive traffic-signal-controlled intersections, QTS has crafted a scenic byway with seamless, landscaped roundabouts which will help alleviate regional commuter and truck traffic. The plan also includes 50 feet of landscaping buffering on either side of the greenway and shared-use paths along either side of Pageland Lane.

Community Coordination

  • This filing marks QTS’ third submission to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. Over this time, QTS has had extensive coordination with all Prince William County Agencies, the National Park Service, Prince William County Historical Commission, and surrounding communities. 
  • Since 2022, QTS has met at least once a quarter with the National Park Service.
  • Over the past 18 months, QTS has met with county staff approximately once a week.

Legally Binding Commitments (Proffers)

  • QTS’s submission includes over 40 pages of proffers, or legally binding commitments, related to:
  • Tree/forest preservation and reforestation;
  • Stream and waterways protection, restoration setbacks, stormwater management enhancements, and erosion and sedimentation controls;
  • Extending water and sewer to the north, which will be tapped for Catharpin Park;
  • Commitments to create public and shared spaces to preserve and enhance previously private historical and cultural sites; and
  • Wildlife corridor preservation.

Prince William Digital Gateway, QTS, data centers, Compass,