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August 30, 2018

Vint Hill wants a rezoning to attract data centers

Contributed Illustration
This conceptual plan shows how data center buildings might fit on a 50-acre site along the Vint Hill Parkway.
“People are paying $1.5 million an acre here in Loudoun and not blinking twice,” says Buddy Rizer, that county’s economic development director. “I think there is enough business to go around for Loudoun, Prince William, Fauquier and Henrico and others.”
Google Earth
Data centers around Ashburn in Loudoun County, which has more than 75 of the structures.
I think it makes sense. You’re amending a proffer to get what Fauquier wants, which is a bigger tax base.
— Supervisor Holder Trumbo
Vint Hill Proposal
• What: Proposed zoning amendment to allow an additional 751,265 square feet of nonresidential building space at Vint Hill near New Baltimore.

• Where: 253 acres at Aiken Drive and Kennedy Road; additional square feet requested would apply to about 168 acres of property.

• Property owners: Vint Hill Village LLC and Vint Hill Land 1 LLC.

• Potential uses: Data centers, office buildings and warehouses, according to the application. Vint Hill’s concept development plan allows a maximum 3.1 million square feet of development at the former 695-acre Army base. The requested additional 751,265 square feet represents a 24.2-percent increase in space.

• Next: Review process involves work sessions and public hearings before the county planning commission and board of supervisors, which has final authority on the application.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Operating on the premise that bigger means better, Vint Hill’s developers believe more commercial space at the former Army base would draw data center developers.

For that reason, landowners Vint Hill Village LLC and Vint Hill Land 1 LLC want Fauquier board of supervisors’ approval to allow up to an additional 751,265 square feet of buildings at the former Amy base near New Baltimore.

Vint Hill has approval for 3.1 million square feet of nonresidential structures.

The proposal, which would require zoning, proffer and development concept plan amendments, calls for a 24.2-percent increase in space.

The additional square footage would apply to approximately 168 acres along Aiken and Kennedy roads in the northwestern portion of Vint Hill, across from the planned Puller Veteran Care Center, scheduled to open next year.

Planning consultant Chuck Floyd, who represents the landowners, believes the requested space, plus infrastructure, would heighten the site’s appeal to data center developers.

“We’re out there marketing it,” explained Mr. Floyd, a former assistant zoning chief with Fauquier County’s planning department. “But you need power and fiber. And, you need to be able to cool your data center.

“Once we have the infrastructure available, I think it’ll be highly competitive with the Prince William County data center market.”

The proposed area seems well suited for data center use, Supervisor Holder Trumbo (Scott District) said.

“It’s away from residential, on the other side of (Vint Hill) Parkway,” said Mr. Trumbo, whose district includes Vint Hill. “It would be served by underground (power) lines” and a barely visible electrical substation.

“I think it makes sense. You’re amending a proffer to get what Fauquier wants, which is a bigger tax base.”

The county’s review process involves work sessions and public hearings before the planning commission and board of supervisors, which has final authority on the application.

With an emphasis on data centers, the application includes concepts that show several potential development options:

• Data center buildings (five structures, 834,940 square feet).

• Data center and office buildings (six structures, 807,020 square feet).

• A distribution center (227,500 square feet), a data center (110,000 square feet) and two data or office buildings (383,140 square feet). They would total 720,640 square feet.

“Vint Hill’s a natural” for data centers, county Economic Development Director Miles Friedman said. “Infrastructure’s in place, it’s zoned (for that use), which makes it by-right, as long as they underground the (power) lines.

“And if they’re using water cooling, it’s recyclable water.”

Mr. Friedman also believes another data center “makes a lot of sense” at Vint Hill because French-based OVH, one of the world’s largest “cloud” computer hosting companies, “is there.”

In the last few years, Fauquier has become a popular location for data centers.

The board of supervisors recently rezoned property near Remington for a Canadian company that plans a large data center complex.

VADATA Inc., an Amazon subsidiary, received economic development incentives to build a data center at the Warrenton Training Center, a high-security federal installation on View Tree Mountain, just north of town.

The training center soon plans to construct another data center at the 346-acre federal compound.

Mr. Friedman believes OVH’s decision to locate in Fauquier marked a turning point for data center development.

“It seemed almost immediately we started getting more calls” from data center developers and “end-users,” he said.

Like grocery stores and car dealerships, “data centers go where there are other data centers are . . . . They just cluster,” Mr. Friedman suggested.

During the last couple of years, his office has received about a dozen inquiries related to data center opportunities.

“They’re not lined up, but for this county it’s a very significant number,” the economic development director said.

A few factors figure into Fauquier’s growing appeal among data center developers and technology companies, Mr. Friedman suggested.

“Our land is less expensive for somebody looking for a campus for five buildings like the (234-acre) Remington Technology Park,” he said.

Alberta, Canada-based Point One paid $7 million for that site, or $29,914 an acre.

Land for data centers in Loudoun County often sells for more than $1 million an acre.

Fauquier also has an “educated workforce,” with 60 to 70 percent commuting “out of the county,” Mr. Friedman said. “We have a qualified workforce that would like to work where they live.”

He speculated that Fauquier could get up to 10 data center buildings and/or campuses over the next 12 years.

Neighboring Loudoun County has more than 75 data center structures, involving more than 3,000 companies.

Loudoun has 10 million square feet of data center space, with most of that space along its so-called “Data Center Alley,” around Ashburn in the eastern part of the county. It also has 4.5 million square feet of data center space under development.

And, 70 percent of “all internet traffic flows though Loudoun data centers,” according to the county.

The centers have created 10,000 to 15,000 jobs there, Economic Development Director Buddy Rizer said in a telephone interview.

In fiscal 2019, the data centers will generate $250 million in tax revenue for Loudoun, Mr. Rizer added.

“We were way out in front of the curve,” he said of Loudoun’s data center success. “Eleven years ago, we identified data centers as an opportunity, and we went all in.

“I’d like to say we realized that it would become what it is today,” said Mr. Rizer, who has headed the department for five years. “Obviously, that would be disingenuous. We were in the right place, with the right programming at the right time as this industry took off.”

Plenty of “good opportunities” allowed the county to grow its data center base, he said.

But, Loudoun “is probably around the seven-inning stretch at this point,” Mr. Rizer acknowledged. “We’re closer to done than we are starting.”

While the county still has plenty of sites to accommodate data centers, “we do not have many of the larger parcels” developers and end-users “are looking for,” he said.

Most cloud operators want “major campuses,” which typically involve more than 100 acres, according to Mr. Rizer.

Loudoun’s “Data Center Alley” probably won’t be replicated elsewhere, he suggested.

“I think you’re going to see an expansion in the market, as data centers are more targeted to reach the external markets,” Mr. Rizer said. “Where most of the activity was in Loudoun for many years, there’s been a significant increase in activity in Prince William.

“Henrico (County near Richmond) has picked up some good deals. And Southside has picked up some other deals.”

He called data centers “one of the real growth markets” in the country available to communities large and small.

The economic development director believes that Loudoun’s top-dollar real estate prices has little effect on data center developers’ decisions to consider less costly markets.

“I have not seen price being the driving factor of where a data center decides to go,” Mr. Rizer said. “People are paying $1.5 million an acre here in Loudoun and not blinking twice.”

More than land prices, he thinks data center developers give greater weight to “unique assets” that a community offers.

“I think there is enough business to go around for Loudoun, Prince William, Fauquier and Henrico and others.”
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Chris Cloud · September 1, 2018 at 6:21 pm
Localfive · August 30, 2018 at 6:30 pm
What are these multi million/billion dollar data centers doing to give back after the county makes their concessions to move them here? What about the old soggy ball fields that have needed drainage and renovations since there was a guard posted at the Vint Hill gates? What about the football teams that are just practicing in the open fields there because there aren’t enough available football fields? What are we doing to make sure that we are taking care of the youth and families in this county, including those of all the employees of these companies that we are bringing in? If they are bringing in as much revenue as anticipated, I would hope they are expected to donate funding to upgrade and expand the parks and ball fields.
VintHillDad · August 30, 2018 at 5:12 pm
Zoning in Vint Hill requires power be underground. The reason data centers are clustered is because that’s how land is zoned. As for Rockwell, they have actually moved folks out of Vint Hill and their old building is available.
AngryBob · August 30, 2018 at 1:38 pm
No new above ground power lines? At all? Get it in writing.

Another concern is that data centers don't bring many long term jobs. Data centers cluster? So do IT and government contractors. Rockwell Collins is already there. Those businesses bring in high paying jobs, something seriously lacking in Fauquier County. After construction, a data center just needs a small staff of mid level support techs to swap hardware. The rest is done somewhere else.

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