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January 23, 2018

Many in Remington supporting data centers

Photos/Don Del Rosso
“They seem to be good neighbors,” hardware business owner Paul Groves says of data centers. “They’re quiet; you don’t hear them.
“They’re building these data centers everywhere, and they’re not creating many jobs,” says Jason Ericsson, who lives near the proposed site.
I don’t see how we can go wrong. It’s a win-win situation.
— Steve Wright, Remington businessman
Data Center Project
• What: Alberta, Canada-based Point One Holdings Inc. seeks rezoning approval from county board of supervisors for data center campus.

• Where: 234 acres along Lucky Hill Road, just northeast of Remington.

• Property owners: Bill and Bob Springer of Warrenton; VCA LLC of Alexandria.

• Proposed buildings: 6, plus an onsite substation to provide power to project.

• Under roof: 1.8 million square feet square feet, with data center structures ranging from 240,000 to 310,000 square feet.

• Estimated investment: $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion.

• Employment: 120 to 180 permanent, full-time jobs; 200 full-time equivalent construction jobs.

• Application: Request to rezone from residential to “Business Park;” site has approval for 199 home lots.

• Schedule: Feb. 8 board of supervisors’ work session; Feb. 15 county planning commission work session; an advisory panel to the supervisors, the commission will conduct a Feb. 27 public hearing; supervisors, which has final authority, expects to conduct March 8 public hearing.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
To the retired paralegal, the proposed billion-dollar-plus data center project just northeast of Remington seems made to order.

“It sounds like a positive thing because of the jobs they’d create,” said Theresa Alphonso, 54, who lives in The Meadows subdivision just south of the proposed 234-acre site. “Anything having to do with computers are good jobs, and people need that.”

Alberta, Canada-based Point One Holdings Inc. wants county board of supervisors’ approval to rezone the property along Lucky Hill road from residential to “Business Park” use to construct up to six data centers totaling as much as 1.8 million square feet.

A real estate development company, Point One put the investment at $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion.

The first of six proposed data center buildings — ranging from 240,000 to 310,000 square feet — would represent a $250-million to $270-million investment, according to the company.

At build-out, which could take five to seven years, the proposed Remington Technology Park could create up to 200 full-time equivalent construction jobs and 180 permanent, “highly skilled and well-paid, full-time jobs,” according to the company.

> Poll: Do you support the proposal?

The site’s existing zoning would allow construction of 199 single-family homes.

Rezoning the property would eliminate those lots, the homes that would be built and the cost of public services they would demand.

“I’d just as soon see” the property developed for data center buildings “rather than houses, with the power plant down there,” Ms. Alphonso said.

Bryan Fisk, a Verizon technician who also lives at The Meadows, qualified his support for the project.

“I think it’s good, but I don’t like Fauquier becoming like Fairfax and Loudoun,” explained Mr. Fisk, 53.

While he expressed misgivings about construction-related traffic on local roads, Mr. Fisk likes the proposed site.

“It’s out of sight, out of the way,” he added, noting the site also makes sense because of its proximity to Dominion Power’s solar farm and power plant along Lucky Hill Road. “It’s on the back roads there . . . . At this point, I don’t see any concerns about it,” provided the infrastructure exists to support the project.

He also believes local citizens should be hired whenever possible to work at the centers.

The centers’ construction crews and permanent workforce could give local businesses a boost, Mr. Fisk added.

Jason Erickson, a Verizon cable splicer who also lives in The Meadows, objects to the proposal.

“They’re building these data centers everywhere, and they’re not creating many jobs,” said Mr. Erickson, 42.

He believes many of the jobs would disappear after the centers begin operating.

“Once they turn it on, they’ll be less people. They’ll be one-person sites.”

But Point One Vice President of Development Colin Clish said the center’s users could require more than the estimated 120 to 180 workers.

“It really depends on the customer and whose servers are in the data centers,” Mr. Clish said in a telephone interview. “There are groups that are more intense in staffing per square foot. It could be higher.”

Big data centers house plenty of equipment that need ongoing maintenance and repair and thus require large staffs, he said.

Mr. Erickson understands the appeal of data as big money-makers for local governments.

“The tax revenue’s great. People are doing it for a reason.”

But Mr. Erickson likened data centers to a blight on the landscape.

“It’s not like they’re attractive buildings . . . . People move out to Fauquier to be away from this.”

Steve Wright, owner of RTO Towing in Remington, supports the project.

“I don’t see how we can go wrong,” said Mr. Wright, 51. “It’s a win-win situation. . . . They’ll be a lot of construction jobs to build these buildings.”

Those construction workers and ultimately the centers’ permanent workforce will spend money at local shops, he said.

Paul Groves, owner of Remington’s Groves Hardware, also believes the proposal “would be a positive,” because it would expand the commercial tax base and create good jobs.

“They seem to be good neighbors,” Mr. Groves added. “They’re quiet; you don’t hear them. It’s not a sewer plant; you don’t smell them.”

While not opposed to the use, “details of the proposal are important,” Julie Bolthouse, a land-use representative of Warrenton-based Piedmont Environmental Council, explained in a written statement.

The nonprofit recommends:

• “Screening and retention of forested areas along Lucky Hill Road and between The Meadows subdivision and the data center buildings.”

• An archaeological study, because the proposed site “is a part of the Rappahannock Station” Civil War battlefields.

• Installation of “solar panels on data center buildings to produce onsite energy and reduce the need for additional transmission lines and upgrades.”

• Reduction of impervious surfaces “as much as possible through low-impact designs” to handle rainwater and runoff.

County board of supervisors’ Chairman Chris Butler (Lee District) has met with Point One representatives about the project.

“From what I understand, it’s definitely something I can support,” Mr. Butler said. “If we lose 199 rooftops, no school buses will be stopping out there.

“If (the project) gets built, I think it’ll have a positive impact on our revenue.”

Mr. Butler plans to meet with community development department staff members to discuss the proposal in detail.

“I don’t see a downside at this point,” Fauquier’s Economic Development Director Miles Friedman said of the Point One proposal. “We wouldn’t be talking to them if the disadvantages didn’t outweigh the advantages.”

“It’s an interesting first step. We’ll see where it goes from here.”

Point One learned about the proposed 234-acre site a year ago, said Mr. Clish, the company’s vice president of development.

He called the property a “natural for the use” because of its size, easy access to power lines and compatibility with nearby uses such as Dominion’s solar farm and power plant.

“We’re still evaluating the site,” Mr. Clish said. “We haven’t closed on that. It’s subject to (board of supervisors’) approval” and further study by the company.

Point One has a contract to buy the property from Fauquier residents and real estate investors Bob and Bill Springer and Alexandria-based VCA LLC. 

If all goes according to plan, Point One hopes to purchase the site in about four months, according to Mr. Clish, who said the company’s principals have extensive data-center experience.

“The county has been very supportive” of the project, Mr. Clish said. “They want to get this in front of the board of supervisors as quick as they can.”

The supervisors will conduct a Feb. 8 work session on the proposal.

The county planning commission will conduct a Feb. 15 work session on it. 

An advisory panel to the supervisors, the commission will conduct a Feb. 27 public hearing on the proposal.

The supervisors, who have final authority, expect to conduct a March 8 public hearing on the project.

The Seattle-based Vadata Inc. constructed Fauquier’s first data center at the Warrenton Training Center, a high-security federal installation on View Tree Mountain, just north of town. French cloud computing giant OVH also has a data center at Vint Hill.
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citizen observer · January 23, 2018 at 3:40 pm
Yep, great proposal!

If they don't build something like a data center; it won't be long until it's filled with houses. So instead of generating revenue, we'll end up with more service requests and tax increases.

I wish the corrupt Warrenton council had this foresight and put something like this on Walker Drive. Instead they rezoned for more stores and apartments.
Jim Griffin · January 23, 2018 at 9:01 am
People want jobs. Agreed. Jobs, people good.

How do we explain that their government opposes people and jobs, preferring farms, thinking cows and crops better suited for our county?

If you listen to them, there's nothing wrong with our county that less people wouldn't solve. I like farms, but I'd prefer to leave our county to capitalism, letting the market make these decisions.
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