Supervisors have already begun to consider an expansion of some data center-friendly zoning standards, and that could include rural crescent land. It’s a debate that’s grown more intense after a group of landowners unveiled a proposal for an 800-acre data center campus adjacent to Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Even supervisors representing western Prince William like Candland and Vega support some expansion of the county’s “data center opportunity zone overlay district,” concentrated just west of Manassas, in order to allow some new data center development. Christina Winn, the county’s economic development director, says “we’re running out of viable land” in that district, which is specially zoned to speed data center construction, and officials have taken that warning to heart.
County Democrats, who assumed control of the board for the first time in a generation last year, also hope data centers are but the first step in allowing new development in the rural area. The rural crescent limits have pushed most development to the east, especially multifamily construction, which Wheeler believes has foreclosed the possibility of transformational mixed-use projects along Interstate 66 or near the western end’s bus and rail hubs.
The massive facilities have rapidly become one of the Northern Virginia suburb’s top economic drivers, but their development has stoked old fears about the impacts of new construction on Prince William’s rural western end. And that tension has brought the county to a crossroads, as local leaders are trying to strike a balance between hiking taxes on the industry to see the benefits of that new investment, opening up more land for data center development and preserving some open space