Last month, a dozen western Prince William landowners asked the county to re-plan 792 acres of mostly vacant property to allow for data centers near Manassas National Battlefield Park. Now, 12 residents who live nearby are offering most of their upscale neighborhood for the same thing.
Nine homeowners who live in the 12-home Dominique Estates subdivision on Pageland Lane, and three homeowners on land adjacent to the subdivision, are banding together to form an unofficial, 143-acre assemblage to request that their land be re-planned for data centers. All the properties are between five and 15 acres.
Each landowner filed an application with the county in May requesting their properties be re-designated for data centers in the county’s updated comprehensive plan, according to documents made public on the county’s website earlier this week.
At least one of the properties borders the larger, 792-acre data center proposal known as the “PWC Digital Gateway,” which aims to offer up to 21 million square feet of data centers along Pageland Lane.
All the properties are currently zoned for agricultural uses and are located in the county’s rural crescent, an area that generally limits development to single-family homes on 10-acre lots or larger. Some other uses are allowed by-right, but not industrial facilities, such as data centers.
Kenn Knarr is the Dominique Estates homeowner leading the effort to re-plan the subdivision for data centers. Knarr moved into his home in 2008. But since then, he said increasing traffic and encroaching development has made the area less rural.
“We bought here for a reason and that reason is changing. And potentially very rapidly,” Knarr said in a June 22 interview with the Prince William Times.
Adding to some residents’ uncertainty about the future of the Pageland Lane corridor is discussion about the Bi-County Parkway, a four-lane bypass that would cut through the area to connect Interstate 66 with roads near Dulles airport, as well as potential new data center development next door. The supervisors removed the Bi-County Parkway from county land maps in 2016 amid strong local opposition. But the road is being reconsidered as supervisors update the county’s long-range transportation plan.
“Changes in the … corridor will directly lead to zoning changes and adjustments to the property values where we live,” Knarr said.
Land suitable for data centers is now selling for about $1 million an acre in Prince William County, according to county officials. Two Dominique Estate landowners acknowledged that property values are part of the reason for their decision but insist their homes would be devalued by future data centers and the Bi-County Parkway.
“There's no escape for us. So, this is the only way out we see that is going to benefit both us and the whole county with the commercial tax base,” said Ali Imam, a Dominique Estates resident.
Requests for land-use changes are part of the comprehensive plan update
The landowners are making the request via an administrative process that allows property owners to seek land-use changes as part of the county’s ongoing update to the comprehensive plan. Each filed a “Long-Range Land Use Map Change Request Application” with the county planning department, a process initiated earlier this year. The comprehensive plan is being updated for the first time since 2010.
The Prince William Board of County Supervisors will have the final say over what proposed changes make it into the updated comprehensive plan. The planning commission and board of county supervisors will vote on the updated land use chapters this summer or fall, according to the county’s website.
Parag Agrawal, Prince William County planning director, said the county has always solicited input from county residents and landowners about land use during comprehensive plan updates. When the comprehensive plan was last updated between 2008 and 2010, property owners provided land use change requests by speaking in front of the land use advisory committee, Agrawal said.
In total, the county received 35 “Long-Range Land Use Map Change” requests totaling 1,871 acres for consideration in this year’s update.
Among the proposals are the controversial Kline property development at the corner of Liberia Avenue and Prince William Parkway outside Manassas and multiple plans for higher density housing in the rural crescent.
New data center development has been generally supported by the board of county supervisors because of their potential to generate local tax revenue. The facilities provided the county $64 million tax revenues in 2020, according to county records.
But some Republican supervisors are opposed to allowing any data center development in the rural crescent, as are local conservation groups, who say the county should not give up its environmental resources.
Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, who lives less than a mile from the proposed "digital gateway,” shared a video on June 17 of himself driving along Pageland Lane and asked viewers to judge for themselves whether the area is still rural.
The video depicts a scenic countryside with very few homes visible from the road. Some traffic and Dominion Energy transmission lines are visible in the video.
“When you drive out here … you really understand that life’s a little slower out here. And I think this is an important part of Prince William County that needs to be preserved,” Candland said in the video. Candland did not return requests for comment on the Dominique Estate homeowners’ applications.
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