MANASSAS, Va. — The final public hearing for the controversial PW Digital Gateway in Prince William County is set for next month.
The debate over economic boost versus protecting the rural scenery in the region is up for the Prince William County Board of Supervisors to decide.
Despite concerns from opponents about what data centers can do to the neighborhoods, the planning commission approved to move the plan forward last month.
After ongoing rallies and public comments from both sides, Supervisor Yesli Vega said she plans to vote against the project, which would transform 2,100 acres of land along Pageland Avenue to fit 27 million square feet of data centers.
"It's going to be a no," Vega, who is running to win the 7th Congressional District, told WUSA9 during a campaign event in Orange, Virginia. "We invested a lot of money trying to designate an overlay district where data centers belong and where we already have the infrastructure to be built. What is being proposed right now is going to transform Prince William County forever. I do not believe data centers should go outside the overlay district. We have an overlay district for a reason."
One of the biggest arguments to approve more data centers is the tax revenue. Among the supporters include Prince William County Public School Chairman At-Large Dr. Babur Lateef who noted schools systems gain up to $50 million a year in revenue from existing data centers.
Many community members and environmental groups have pushed back. Some even started recall efforts against Board Chair Ann Wheeler and Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland.
They are worried about what large developments would do to the rural landscape including concerns over water quality, noise and access to power.
"We have a lot of folks concerned," Vega said. "We have folks like Tim Kaine and Mark Warner sounding the alarm and telling our board of supervisors to slow down because we have to think about the water impacts, we have to think about the noise impacts and I think we need to be diligent as to how we move forward and ensuring that we've conducted all of these studies before we decide to build these data centers and transform Prince William County forever."
The offices of Senator Warner and Senator Kaine reached out to WUS9 with the following statement regarding the data centers:
“The offices of Senator Warner and Senator Kaine have heard from both supporters and opponents of this project, and have not weighed in one way or the other.”
Vega's Democratic opponent, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Virginia) said she is also paying attention.
While the decision is ultimately up to local government, the newly redrawn Congressional district now includes parts of Prince William County.
"Certainly, there are many questions to be considered about environmental impact, electrical usage impact that bringing data centers to Prince William County would bring," Spanberger said. "I have continued to engage with local community leaders to make sure that I'm hearing all sides of the discussion. Ultimately. this is a local decision. But it is one from my vantage point people are moving forward methodically and thoughtfully towards a decision and taking into consideration on the major impacts."