For the second time in its history, Manassas National Battlefield Park is listed as one of the most endangered historic places in Virginia.
Conservation groups gathered at the battlefield’s Brawner Farm on Tuesday to announce its inclusion on the annual list by Preservation Virginia, a statewide group based in Richmond that publishes a yearly list of endangered historic sites.
“These landscapes tell an important story of our past,” said Preservation Virginia CEO Elizabeth Kostelny.
The battlefield is the site of the first and second battles of Bull Run in the Civil War. The First Battle of Bull Run, fought July 21, 1861, was the first major battle of the war, with nearly 1,000 soldiers dying in a Confederate victory. The Second Battle of Bull Run was fought from Aug. 28, 1862, to Aug. 30, 1862. Nearly 3,000 soldiers died in the battle, which was a Confederate victory and precipitated the South’s failed invasion of Maryland the following month.
The site is now at the center of a new battle over a nearby proposed data center development.
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 for the PW Digital Gateway.
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.
The area under consideration is the entirety of Pageland Lane between U.S. 29 and Sudley Road.
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.
The Manassas battlefield joined Brandy Station Battlefield in Culpeper as battlefields threatened by potential development from data centers, according to the Preservation Virginia report.
“We want the local officials in these counties to understand that as with any type of development, preservation and data centers are not mutually exclusive,” David Duncan, president of the American Battlefield Trust, said in a news release. “These communities can have both, but it all depends on the careful consideration of location.”
Kostelny said the battlefield was listed as endangered the first time in 2013 when Prince William County was considering the Bi-County Parkway.
Acting Park Superintendent Raquel Montez said the park “continues to oppose” the data center development. She said its impacts on the environment and cultural resources haven’t been fully studied.
Montez said a key aspect of the park is maintaining an immersive environment.
“Even though the lands we are trying to protect are not in our legislative boundary, they are important not just to our county, but to our nation,” she said.
Supporters of the PW Digital Gateway say it will provide a huge economic boom to the county in an area that’s no longer rural. Pageland Lane homeowners are expected to see financial gains – likely significant – if their property is sold to the data center developers.
County officials continue to review the PW Digital Gateway application and QTS’ rezoning. No public hearings have been scheduled on the proposals.