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LETTER: Don’t let data centers threaten county’s African-American historic sites

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LETTER: A letterbox with the inscription Letter to the editor

There is a limited-time opportunity for our county to study and create a fitting public experience area for sites of African American history in western Prince William.

These sites are on the planning office map "Prince William County African American Heritage." The sites are "the Settlement" and adjacent Thornton School. They are located in the Pageland Lane/Thornton Drive/Artemus Road area. 

I call this a limited-time opportunity because these sites are in the central sector of land currently under study for the proposed comprehensive plan amendment (CPA 2021-0004), the Prince William Digital Gateway.

The application requests a change of the underlying land use designation for the property from “agricultural” or “environmental resource” to “technology/flex” to create a tech corridor along Pageland lane between Va. 234 and U.S. 29. This change is intended to allow for corridor to be developed for data centers.

Our board of county supervisors showed us the importance of historical research and preservation of our Black history resources. On June 15, they appropriated $765,000 through fiscal year 2023 for the study, preservation and creation of interpretive areas of the Thoroughfare and Settlement communities of northwestern Prince William County. 

Our supervisors are strongly encouraged to consider budgeting and appropriating this year, funds for the study, preservation and creation of public interpretive areas of these Black history resources: the Thornton School and adjacent "Settlement" community. 

The Prince William Gateway proposal directly threatens these historic sites. The supervisors’ decision on the proposed new data center corridor should be considered after the historical study is complete and a land-use decision for historic preservation is made.

Stephanie Chartrand

Gainesville

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(3) comments

Sharonharvey

It’s not just slaves, it’s men who served in WWI and WWII, it’s our neighbors, it’s people we went to church with, families we bought produce and eggs from, it’s our teachers and our children’s teachers in historically black schools, our co-workers in this county and in DC whose families have loved ones buried here. It’s our history and our community’s history. We learn it by sharing the stories, hearing whose house was at the corner of the family plot. I do not want to have any of this paved over and forgotten under massive concrete slabs, under breweries and more roads. Let these histories breathe and be retold and shared for generations. You make a sad decision when you destroy history.

gman021

I know it would seem contradictory, but a PW Digital Gateway could actually help in preserving these historic sites.

From what I understand it is standard practice for a rezoning applicant to hire an expert to look into this through a cultural resource study.

Furthermore, I understand neither the County or VDHR have info or reference #s for these sites. They are thought to be in the northwest quadrant of the Thornton / Pageland intersection. There are no visible remains in this location. This area has been farmed and lived on for years. They are on private property, so the best way to ensure they are studied, documented and memorialized, is through the Cultural Resources studies that accompany a conditional rezoning.

Lastly, I understand the existing County Comp Plan language is sufficient to require a CR study during a conditional rezoning.

Catharpin411

I agree 100% and stupidly I know nothing about this site(s).

Can we stop paving over history?

VOTE NO on the data centers...more knowledge on the former slave history.

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