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February 9, 2018

Proffer relief complicates proposal for data center

This conceptual illustration shows the completed data center, which would generate far more tax revenue than the $2.7 million cash proffers the county would get from a Bealeton subdivision.
We not only believe it is a bad deal for the county, but we are concerned about the perception that it creates.
— Julie Bolthouse, Piedmont Environmental Council representative
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.

• Applications: Request to rezone from residential to “Business Park;” site has approval for 199 home lots and to eliminate $2.7 million in cash proffers for a separate, 197-lot subdivision rezoned in 2003. 

• Schedule: 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
The Marshall District supervisor worries that a proposed revenue trade-off related to the data center project near Remington could establish a dangerous standard.

“I’m struggling with this,” Mary Leigh McDaniel, an accountant, said during a Thursday work session on the project. “We want and need economic development . . . . But, I am concerned about precedent.”

Fauquier residents Bob and Bill Springer and their partner GGFS/Foxhaven LLC of Alexandria own the proposed 234-acre data center site along Lucky Hill Road just northeast of Remington.

They also own an undeveloped, 197-lot subdivision called Fox Haven at Route 28 and Schoolhouse Road near Bealeton.

Rezoned from agriculture to residential use in 2003, Fox Haven requires the developer to pay Fauquier $2.7 million in cash “proffers” to help pay for public services the new homes would demand.

The landowners contend the proposed, billion-dollar-plus Remington Technology Park’s success depends on the supervisors’ dropping the cash proffer tied to Fox Haven, which lies about a mile and a half north of the data center property.

Proposed changes to the Fox Haven proffers “allow for the sale of the” data center property “at a price which makes the industrial project economically feasible,” according the application. “While the two related rezoning requests are required to be processed separately, they are essentially a joint rezoning application with each being dependent upon the other.”

Eliminating the Fox Haven cash proffers of $14,730 per home would make the subdivision lots more marketable, Bob Springer said in an interview Thursday.

Meanwhile, the proposed data center site has zoning for 199 single-family homes.

Rezoning that property to “Business Park” use would eliminate millions of dollars in public service costs those homes would demand, according to the county planning staff.

And, should the data center get constructed as proposed, it would generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, the county analysis found.

That revenue would far exceed the loss of the $2.7 million Fox Haven proffers, Mr. Springer said.

“I don’t know that’s a bad precedent,” he added.

But Ms. McDaniel fears that if the board approves the Fox Haven amendment, other landowners will expect the same treatment under similar circumstances.

“And how do you say no? You can’t. You can have it for this, but maybe not for the other one,” she said Thursday. “But, I would really like to see the economic development that this brings. I’ve been challenged on this one.”

He understands why the supervisors might be “skeptical” about the proffer proposal, Mr. Springer said.

“They want to make sure the county gets a good deal,” he said. “I don’t blame them. That’s their job.

“This is in the best interest of the county. The way my brain works, it’s cut and dried. Obviously, others view it in a different way.”

The Warrenton-based Piedmont Environmental Council suggested the unusual proffer proposal sends the wrong message.

“We not only believe it is a bad deal for the county, but we are concerned about the perception that it creates,” PEC staff member Julie Bolthouse wrote in a Feb. 6 letter to the board of supervisors. “To the average citizen, it is perceived as blackmail at best or as a pay-to-play scheme at worst.”

Mr. Springer declined to comment on the PEC letter.

Supervisor Rick Gerhardt (Cedar Run) asked if the $2.7-million cash proffer could be incrementally extinguished as the data center developed.

That would require the applicant’s consent, County Attorney Kevin Burke told the board.

But the Springers and their partner have rejected the idea of tying proffer relief to a project that might never get built or completed as planned. They would sell the property to Point One Holdings Inc.

As part of the Fox Haven rezoning amendment request, the landowners also seek approval to construct up to 66 homes per year. The 2003 rezoning limited construction to 33 houses per year. 

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 Point One.

The data center project, which could take five to seven years to complete, would create up to 200 full-time equivalent construction jobs and 180 permanent, “highly skilled and well-paid, full-time jobs,” the application states. 

An advisory panel to the supervisors, the county planning commission will conduct a Feb. 15 work session and Feb. 27 public hearing on the data center rezoning application

The supervisors plan to conduct a March 8 public hearing on the data center application. The application to amend Fox Haven’s proffer agreement requires a public hearing before the supervisors, who will decide the matter. That hearing also could take place March 8.

The planning commission has no role in the proposed changes to the 2003 proffers.

Application SOJ FoxHaven 1stSub (3) by Fauquier Now on Scribd

Application documents filed with county:

Application SOJ RemTechPark 1stSub by Fauquier Now on Scribd

Application ConceptRenderings RemTechPark 1stSub by Fauquier Now on Scribd

Application ProfferStatement RemTechPark 1stSub by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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martinkus · February 11, 2018 at 6:32 pm
The PEC is spot-on...

“We not only believe it is a bad deal for the county, but we are concerned about the perception that it creates,” PEC staff member Julie Bolthouse wrote in a Feb. 6 letter to the board of supervisors. “To the average citizen, it is perceived as blackmail at best or as a pay-to-play scheme at worst.” The Springer proposal would set a very dangerous precedent for land use issues!
Jim Griffin · February 10, 2018 at 9:58 am

Ahh ... YES.

You do realize Fauquier County has already landed one of these data centers you write we cannot get, right?

Data Centers are like the Vint Hill ATC facility -- good jobs with a low environmental footprint. Automation is a given, so those who do the automating will find good work here.
farmbum · February 10, 2018 at 7:58 am

Look up the road into PWC and see if your really want to try and compete with that. They have infrastructure in place, their roads are already built and being expanded, their educational facilities are expanding, their communities are expanding.

Fauquier is in the data center market with no resources for these buildings in place. We are too little, too late and behind in this market. All we have is the land.

And don't be fooled by the jobs ploy. Automation will make the jobs more of baby sitting the infrastructure. And when further consolidation comes, those buildings will sit empty for a very long time.

Nope, don't need it. Just go visit PWC and see what they are doing.
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