Several million square feet of data center space will find its home amongst the hardwoods on a land that is meant to buffer the Loudoun of the east from the Loudoun of the west.
Stonewall Secure Business Park will spring up on the 194 acres east of Sycolin Road and north of the Dulles Greenway near Leesburg, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors decided July 19 by a 6-3 vote with Supervisors Andrea McGimsey (D-Sugarland Run), Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg) and Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) dissenting.
Presently, the plot is heavily evergreen: housing 150-foot tall electric transmission lines, an underground natural gas line, an expanse of forest comprising hardwoods and evergreens and a colony of wood turtles.
But, Stonewall Creek LLC, will develop the area into a secure business park that will eventually house 2.9 million square feet of data centers as well as another 1 million square feet of non-data center uses including; office space, warehousing, health and fitness centers, a carry-out restaurant and a firearm range, among other uses.
The county’s potential direct tax revenue per year at full build out of Stonewall Creek is projected to be more than $50 million, according to Stonewall Creek’s managing partner, John Andrews.
In order to develop the land into a secure, data center business park, the supervisors approved a rezoning of the area from a transitional residential area into a planned development-industrial park.
Before the vote, McGimsey cautioned that if the board approved the rezoning, it sends the message to the people who worked on the comprehensive plan that the board knows better than they do. She said she was embarrassed and apologized to all the people who had asked the board not to approve the amendment.
Burton said the board risks setting a precedent by passing a rezoning amendment before changing the comprehensive plan amendment, or CPAM, which he likened to closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.
“It seems that if the plan is inconvenient, the board just ignores it, passes a rezoning for whatever reason, and then proceeds to change the plan so as to make the statement publicly that this time we really mean it and hopefully no one will go against it again in the future,” he said.
Supervisor Stevens Miller (D-Dulles) said that although he agreed with Burton, the board is “stuck with a monumental problem in this county of trying to figure out how to [un]burden residential taxpayers, when the tools we have in which to tackle that problem are as woefully inadequate as they are.”
He added that its very hard to say no to an applicant that wants to add to an area that is already in the process of being developed, who has shown a willingness to collaborate with county staff and the community, and wants to contributed tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to the county per year.
Stonewall’s proposal was rejected by the county’s Planning Commission in May, and was not supported by the department of planning staff because of its density and scale.
“What the land use policies for the county say is that this transition area is supposed to be open space, a green area, a transition between western Loudoun County, which is very rural and eastern Loudoun that is very suburban,” said Judi Birkitt, the project manager with the Loudoun County Department of Planning during a June 12 Board of Supervisors public hearing.
The transition area is meant to serve as a buffer between the higher-intensity uses in the east and the low density, open-space and farmland in the west, it is also meant to serve as a visual buffer, Burkitt said at the time.
Stonewall Creek has created a 75-foot buffer area between the business park and the surrounding community, allowed for a double row of pine trees, sewer and water lines, a security fence, paid its residential tap fees and made several cash contributions for connecting trails to the W&OD trail and for fire and rescue purposes. Additionally, it has agreed to reforest areas that may be effected during construction. Stonewall Creek has also agreed to relocate any existing colonies of wood turtles.
Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Sterling) said the comprehensive plan was out of date and approval of the rezoning is not decimating the transition area.
“It brings in tax revenue, that is very positive,” she said.
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This article was first published by Hannah Hager on LoudounTimes.com.