Bristow residents reject Devlin Tech Park, Despite Updated Proffers town hall; plan protest against rezoning.
Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson-D held a town hall, Nov. 14, to present the community with Stanley Martin’s updated rezoning application for the “Devlin Tech Park” data center campus. The Prince William Board of County Supervisors scheduled its public hearing on the Devlin Technology Park rezoning for Nov. 28, and the proposal remains controversial.
In 2019, the board granted Stanley Martin permission to build 516 single-family homes on 270 acres along Devlin Road and Linton Hall Road and rezoned it from agricultural to residential, as per the existing Comprehensive Plan.
Last year, the applicant requested that the land instead be used to house several data centers. Despite community opposition, the majority of the county supervisors approved the land designation was included in the Comprehensive Plan. However, a rezoning is still required.
Concerning to residents, the data campus was to include approximately 9-11, 80-foot buildings on 270 acres of land adjacent to schools, homes and businesses at Bristow Commons. In response, the applicant reduced the data center campus to 185 acres.
CHANGES TO THE APPLICATION
Last month, home builder Stanley Martin revised the application to address citizens’ primary concerns: the proximity to Christopher Young Elementary School and the proximity to homes and insufficient buffers.
“In response to community input received over the last year, Devlin Tech Park underwent modifications to align with residents' feedback, including a smaller footprint and more buffers. The proposal now envisions Devlin Tech Park as a 185-acre data infrastructure campus,” stated the Devlin Technology Park website.
“Additionally, 85 acres will be given to Prince William County ensuring a nearly one-half mile separation from Chris Young Elementary School, and providing the County the opportunity to develop new park, trails and open space areas that can be enjoyed by neighboring residential communities, as well as the broader Prince William County community.”
CRITICISM OF THE PROJECT
The applicant’s concessions did not sway attendees to support the rezoning. Lead organizers of of "Say 'No' to Devlin Tech Park," Bethany Kelley and Laura Mahoney, shared a message they sent to the county planner assigned to the case.
“We have consulted with many in the community and the bottom line is NO ONE, but the applicant thinks this is a good idea. Neighbors, HOA’s.civic associations, environmental groups, school board members, local politicians, and even data center developers in this area do not think that data centers should ever be placed on the Devlin piece of land which is surrounded by homes on 3 1/2 sides and schools on each end," they wrote.
"We are dealing with a home builder, not a data center developer, who saw this as a money grab to flip land that was purchased and approved for homes into an industrial use. There is nothing but greed of the developer driving this application.”
“We hope that those of you working on the planning staff have the courage and integrity to stand up to this applicant and the pressure that you are feeling from those on the BOCS taking obscene amounts of campaign donation from the applicant and do what is right here. Under no circumstances should a data center campus ever be placed in the middle of residential communities.”
CRITICISM OF THE PROJECT AT THE TOWN HALL
Lawson presented the facts and then asked if anyone agreed with the project, but no one raised their hand. She informed residents that the county does not have exact site plans because Stanley Martin does not have an “end user."
Attendees shared their worries about the air pollution from diesel generators, running during blackouts and for monthly testing. Residents voiced concerns about the negative effects data centers would have, not only on immediate neighbors but on neighboring areas and counties.
Another data center owner said that he thinks it is the wrong location. He, in fact, turned it down himself, because he thinks data centers belong in light industrial zones.
CHAIR-ELECT JEFFERSON SUPPORTS DATA CENTER RESISTANCE
Attendees found it encouraging that Board of County Supervisors Chair-elect Deshundra Jefferson-D sent a letter stating her intent to support the residents. While she will not be serving on the board until Jan. 1, she said she would talk to the other supervisors.
“I apologize that I could not be here today as I had a previous commitment that I was unable to reschedule. It's important for those in attendance tonight to continue to make your voices heard and to work with elected officials to help them understand what's at stake for your community," Jefferson stated.
There's a place for data centers within our county - but it's not next to homes, schools, or our national parks. Land use is one of the most critical functions that our Board of County Supervisors oversees, and they must exercise greater caution and restraint when making decisions that impact residents.
I am meeting with members of the current Board of County Supervisors, as well as the incoming Brentsville Supervisor Tom Gordy, to discuss alternatives for Devlin Technology Park. The Devlin community has made clear that they don't want data centers near their homes, and their voices must be heard.”
Residents applauded in response to Jefferson’s statement. Lawson said she really appreciated the new chair's support.
“I think you need to all send Deshundra Jefferson a thank you,” Lawson said, praising her political opponent “She showed bold leadership. She is the only Democrat that came out against these projects.”
Residents also thanked Lawson for holding the town hall so soon after learning she lost the election for chair. They took it as a testament to her dedication to the community that she continued to fight for them.
LOCAL REPUBLICAN ELECTED OFFICIALS LEND SUPPORT
Brentsville Supervisor-elect Tom Gordy-R; Brentsville School board member-elect Erica Tredinnick, and Delegate-elect Ian Lovejoy-R, representing Va. House District 22) attended the meeting, lending their support to the residents.
Gordy apologized for supporting the project while Brentville Planning Commissioner. He said he is now concerned about electrical usage. Data centers are predicted to quadruple Dominion Power's power usage. Power will need to be sent from as far away as New Jersey or Ohio to fulfill the expanded need. That means more power lines throughout the state.
Gordy said that if you are using mega wattages, “maybe you are not light industrial.”
Lovejoy said they have some allies in the house because other Virginia counties are realizing they will become the dumping ground for those power lines. He acknowledged many Republicans in state government support data centers, so he will need a bipartisan coalition to fight them.
Tredinnick took issue with the fact that the current school board has chosen not to comment on commercial enterprises near schools, but only address housing concerns. She explained they are not doing their jobs in that respect.
“We are elected by you. We serve you. We have to listen to you,” she said, explaining that she will be speaking out on their behalf. “The people have spoken. We don’t want this here, but it also doesn’t belong.”
ORGANIZERS INVITE NEIGHBORS TO “SAY ‘NO’ TO DEVLIN TECH PARK” MARCH/RALLY
The meeting also provided an opportunity for the “Say No to Devlin Tech Park” citizen activists to recruit more residents to support their cause. They invited them to attend a protest this Sunday, 1:30 p.m., beginning at Bristow Commons.
They hope to attract participants and also encourage people to take an active role in volunteering to hand out flyers and the like. People who are interested in participating can email SayNoToDevlinTechPark@gmail.com
They also hope people will join them to speak at the BOCS meeting, Nov. 28. They can speak either in person or virtually. Virtual speakers must sign up by 5 p.m. on Nov. 27.
The town hall, which was held at Grace Life Church had between 50-70 people but was still less populated than previous Devlin Tech Park meetings, which hundreds of angry residents attended. This meeting attracted those who had followed the data center development more closely, including some from Gainesville and Manassas, and fewer Bristow-only residents.
Organizers say it does not mean people are satisfied with the proffers. Lawson said it was late notice since they had trouble booking a location.
Whether less attendance means many residents are content with the revision remains to be seen. The SayNoToDevlin organizers believe it is important that community members actively, not passively, oppose the rezoning. They hope to see a huge turnout on Sunday.
Thank you to Our Sponsors !!