Prince William County officials plan to hold a work session on water quality next month in response to concerns about the proposed PW Digital Gateway.
During its meeting Tuesday, and at the behest of Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, the Board of County Supervisors directed county staff to put together the work session.
Lawson requested a presentation from the Fairfax County Water Authority after the agency sent a letter to Prince William County officials last month. The agency is urging the county to conduct a comprehensive study of the potential impacts on water quality in the Occoquan Reservoir from the digital gateway, Comprehensive Plan update and potential expansion of the Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District.
Last summer, landowners along Pageland Lane submitted a request to change the land designation of their properties in the Comprehensive Plan from agricultural zoning to technology zoning. The request on 2,100 acres could pave the way for 27.6 million square feet of data centers, nearly as much data center space as is currently in use or under construction in neighboring Loudoun County, the world’s largest concentration of such facilities.
Last month, Kansas-based QTS Realty Trust Inc., which has a data center in the Manassas area, filed the first rezoning request related to the gateway, covering 812 acres of the proposal – or about 40% of the overall project. The company wants to build 7.9 million square feet of data center space on the land.
Meanwhile, the county is conducting a review of the Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District and its possible expansion. The district is roughly 10,000 acres designated in 2016 to support data center development by reducing regulatory hurdles.
The Board of Supervisors voted last year to study areas to expand the district along high-transmission power lines. A consultant is examining potential areas to expand the district but will also consider necessary changes to construction standards, the Comprehensive Plan and the zoning ordinance, along with any other effects from data centers.
On top of those two initiatives, the county is updating its Comprehensive Plan and has proposed easing some of the decades-old policies restricting development in rural areas.
The March 21 letter from Fairfax says that the initiatives could have a potential impact on the Occoquan Reservoir, which the agency said supplies drinking water for 800,000 people in Northern Virginia.
“We strongly urge that the review of these Planning initiatives incorporate a rigorous evaluation of the potential impacts to water quality in the Occoquan watershed utilizing the frameworks and tools already established through regional mechanisms to protect the Reservoir as a drinking water supply,” the letter says.
Lawson said the letter was “compelling,” and the county should ask Fairfax Water to provide a presentation about its concerns. “Clean water is critical to the future of our county.”
Chair Ann Wheeler said the county has reached out to the agency and supported holding a work session to include the Fairfax water authority, Prince William County Service Authority, Prince William public works and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
“I think we definitely need to clear up some issues about water,” she said.
The board tentatively planned to hold the work session May 24, depending on the availability of presenters.
The digital gateway dominated public comment at Tuesday’s meeting, with 31 people speaking against it and 15 supporting it.
Stormwater fee increase, school division budget
In other business, the board received a presentation on planned increases to the stormwater management fee as part of the proposed budget for fiscal 2023, which starts July 1.
The budget calls for the rates to increase for the first time since fiscal 2017.
The charge for single-family homes would increase from $39.36 to $44.08. The fees for townhouses, condominiums and apartment buildings would increase from $29.52 to $33.06. For non-residential buildings, the fee would jump from $39.36 to $44.08.
The increased fee would help the county continue to pay for maintenance of stormwater management facilities and drainage systems and for environmental monitoring.
“It gives more flexibility to our watershed people to manage our water supplies,” said Jack Kooyoomjian of the Lake Ridge-Occoquan-Coles Civic Association.
The Prince William School Board also presented its budget request to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The school division is proposing a $1.4 billion spending plan. The proposal relies on a $559 contribution from the county, which is $50.6 million, or 9.2%, more than the current fiscal year’s allocation.
The fees and school allocation require approval as part of the county’s proposed $1.48 billion operating budget for fiscal 2023. The board is expected to hold a hearing on its advertised tax rates on April 12. The budget is scheduled for adoption by April 26.