Prince William County, data center developer move to dismiss Devlin Technology Park suit

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Demonstrators opposing Devlin Technology Park prior to the Nov. 28 meeting.(Ben Peters | InsideNoVa)

Prince William County and the developer behind the planned Devlin Technology Park data center complex has moved to have a judge dismiss a lawsuit filed by project opponents that aimed to tank the proposal.

Bristow-area residents alleged it was illegal for the Board of County Supervisors to approve a rezoning of 269 acres on the county’s western end to allow for 4.2-million square feet of between seven to nine data centers northwest of Devlin Road that’s directly adjacent to hundreds of homes. They claimed their quality of life, property values and neighborhood character will be negatively impacted by the data centers to be developed by Stanley Martin Cos. Inc.

In legal briefs filed in late January, attorneys for both the county and developer argued the residents failed to establish a legitimate case against the approval of the data center complex by falling short of achieving the legal standards necessary to overturn a local governing body’s land-use decision.

An attorney for Stanley Martin did not return a request for comment on its filings. The county declined to comment.

The project, approved by the board in November following a lengthy meeting, was at the time the latest high-profile data center project to move forward in Prince William County despite outcry from residents and advocacy groups over its proximity to residences and abundant concerns about it harming neighbors.

The neighbors, William and Stephanie Caparoula, Megan Carey, Vashon Citizen, Jan and Thomas Ellison and Michael Phillips, are represented by former Democratic state Sen. Chap Petersen, who has recently taken to fighting Prince William County data center approvals, including the contentious PW Digital Gateway. Through a nonprofit, the residents are paying for the suit via a crowdfunding campaign that has raised more than $8,000.

“I have reviewed the Motion to Dismiss filed by the data center companies,” Petersen said in a statement. “It contains the standard defenses used against property owners who seek to defend their rights. Our goal continues to [be] obtaining a resolution on the merits as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”

The Devlin project experienced a troubled approval process, with several delays and growing opposition from nearby residents who resisted the inclusion of a data center complex in a residential neighborhood. Stanley Martin first proposed building 551 single-family homes on the three parcels but then purchased them outright for over $50 million and switched gears to a data center, leaving behind the homebuilding plan.

The rezoning requests for the project were initially heard by the board in early 2023 and were then deferred to March. The developer subsequently deferred its application indefinitely, with it reemerging in late September to be heard in the form of an amended proposal, incorporating previous public feedback and requested changes from the board.

But the amended proposal wasn’t vetted by the Planning Commission, which initially recommended approval of the project, and the commission was limited in how much time it had to review the new proposal. The board’s approval of the project also gutted previously promised dedicated public park space after it was deemed an unenforceable provision.

While planning staff acknowledged the project’s proximity to residences was not ideal, they ultimately gave it the green light, noting its potential economic benefits and alignment with the county’s Comprehensive Plan, with data centers being a targeted industry.

The board’s Democratic majority of former Chair Ann Wheeler, Woodbridge Supervisor Margaret Franklin, Occoquan Supervisor Kenny Boddye, Neabsco Supervisor Victor Angry and Potomac Supervisor Andrea Bailey supported the data center. Coles Supervisor Yesli Vega, former Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson and Gainesville Supervisor Bob Weir — all Republicans — opposed the Devlin project.

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