Manassas Battlefield

New Data Centers Near Manassas Battlefield Debated

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Dozens of Prince William County residents are taking a stand on whether a huge tract of land near Manassas National Battlefield Park should become a home for data centers.

The pastoral beauty of the view over Pageland Lane is interrupted by high voltage transmission lines, and the county is considering a plan to rezone what has been preserved as part of the so-called Rural Crescent to add 2,000 to the Prince William Digital Gateway, opening it up to the data centers -- huge, box-shaped buildings that house computer systems critical for running the internet.

“We’re not rural because of the traffic, which is commuter and industrial, and then we’ve already got these massive transmission lines,” said Mary Ann Ghadban, who leads a group of property owners ready to sell. “They’ve truly ruined the ruralness, our property values."

But her neighbors in nearby Heritage Hunt say they moved there because of the more tranquil, rural character, which they fear the data center plan would destroy. 

“That’s the charm of the western part of Prince William County, and once that’s gone, it’s gone,” resident Mary Foster said.

But data center supporters say a massive data center site could provide the county much-needed revenue and create local jobs.

“They throw off a huge amount of tax money, and that is why every jurisdiction in the United States and Europe, all over the world, is fighting to get data centers,” Ghadban said.

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News4's Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey has been covering this side of the state since joining NBC4 in 1992. She's joined by reporter Drew Wilder.

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Heritage Hunt residents say they are doing their own research and they don’t buy estimates that the data center could add $700 million a year in tax revenue. 

“The county has not done any of their homework on this,” resident John Lyver said.

“We’ve done a full tax model and it comes out to a small fraction of that,” he said.

Opponents, which also include conservation groups point to the other, more industrial areas of the county already zoned for data centers. They say those should be filled and expanded before the countryside should be forever altered.

More than 100 people signed up to speak at a public meeting Thursday evening.

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