Cutting through the noise: Prince William County to review code

Prince William County is reviewing its noise ordinance after recent outcry about the sound generated by data centers.

Board of County Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler, D-At Large, has directed county staff to review the ordinance.

Wheeler said her directive, formally made in July, was spurred by residents’ concern about noise “from various sources, including data centers.”

Prince William appears on track to overtake Loudoun County as the data center capital of the world as the industry has exploded recently with dozens of projects approved and more coming in on a regular basis.

The existing ordinance was adopted in 1989, long before data centers started growing across the county.

Last month, Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, asked for the work to be expedited if possible.

County Attorney Michelle Robl said county staff understands it’s “an important priority issue,” but it will “take some time” for outreach and legal analysis.

“We know that there are probably some unintended consequences and we know that we need to do some outreach with the civic associations [and] the business organizations,” Robi said.

Noise is among the myriad concerns that residents have raised over the past year about the industry.

Reviewing the noise ordinance is the latest in a string of changes to county policies required by the industry’s growth. County officials are also conducting a water study, continuing the update of the Comprehensive Plan and reviewing the Data Center Opportunity Zone overlay district.

Manassas demonstration

On Monday, about 60 people demonstrated over noise issues outside Amazon’s data center under construction near the Manassas Regional Airport. The event was prompted by concerns in the Great Oak subdivision about noise from the facility.

Dale Browne, president of the Great Oak Homeowners Association, said the HOA started receiving complaints about noise in April. He said residents have reported sleep disruptions and increased migraines.

“Great Oak is the first Prince William County community with an active data center impacting our people,” he said. “We are the canary in the coal mine as the county is pushing forward to build up to 130 more of these facilities.”

In a statement, an Amazon Web Services spokesman said: “Addressing our neighbor’s noise concerns in Prince William County is a priority for us. We started installing sound reducing acoustical shrouds at our data center in Manassas last Friday and this work will be completed in the coming weeks. This is just one of several sound reduction measures our team is evaluating. We are proud to call Virginia home, and remain committed to working with and listening to our neighbors to further improve the environment around our facilities.”

County staff will bring potential revisions to the Board of County Supervisors before scheduling a public hearing.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

 

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