Kevin Ramundo

Kevin Ramundo, president of Citizens For Fauquier County, speaks out against the proposed Amazon data Center during a Warrenton Town Council meeting on Nov. 9. 

Update: March 21, 8 a.m.

Following FauquierNow's publication of the story below, the town of Warrenton issued a press release Monday evening saying it "followed all state laws and local ordinances regarding the process for considering Amazon’s [special-use permit] application. The Constitution of Virginia recognizes the right to property as fundamental, and an aspect of property rights is that owners may use their property in accordance with the laws designated to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. In accordance with the law, the Town Council imposed conditions on the SUP to address the health, safety, and welfare concerns raised by the public comments on the SUP application."

The statement continues, "Regarding the petition, none of the data center site’s adjacent neighbors joined the lawsuit. The citizens who filed the suit allege that the data center will affect them only as members of the general public, which does not give them standing to challenge the [special-use permit]. The petition is asking the court to substitute its judgment for the decision of the duly elected Town Council, contrary to law. The Town looks forward to the court resolving this lawsuit."


Original Story: March 20, 4 p.m.

The environmental nonprofit Citizens for Fauquier County and 10 Warrenton residents have filed a lawsuit in Fauquier Circuit Court seeking to overturn the Town Council’s decision to approve Amazon Data Services' request for a special-use permit to build a 220,000-square-foot data center on its property on the corner of Lee Highway and Blackwell Road.

The suit, filed by the nonprofit's legal counsel, Whiteford, Taylor & Preston L.L.P., alleges councilmembers violated the town’s zoning ordinance and Comprehensive Plan when it approved the permit during their Feb. 13 meeting, thus making the resolution invalid.

Additionally, the plaintiffs argue that if allowed to go forward, the construction and operation of the facility may negatively impact their health, quality of life and property value.

“This suit recognizes that the town of Warrenton has ignored its own zoning ordinances, its own comprehensive plan, its own legally prescribed processes, and the clearly expressed desires of the vast majority of its citizens in approving this data center,” Kevin Ramundo, president of Citizens for Fauquier County, said in a news release.

The case marks the nonprofit's second lawsuit against the town in four months. In December, Citizens for Fauquier brought a case against the Warrenton Town Clerk Stephen Clough, accusing him of violating the Virginia Freedom of Information Act by withholding thousands of “documents and communications” written and received by town officials relating to the Amazon data center.

Last month, Circuit Court Judge Alfred Swersky denied the nonprofit's request to review the more than 3,000 emails, arguing the town’s decision to withhold the documents was “appropriate.”

The most recent suit argues the town’s approval of Amazon’s special-use permit for a data center is invalid for several reasons.

First, the plaintiffs argue the council approved the permit “despite a lack of adequate submission under the Town’s Zoning Ordinance.”

For example, the town ordinance states an applicant applying for a special-use permit “shall provide all of the information, data, and studies needed to allow the Planning Commission and Town Council, to reach conclusive evaluations.”

The plaintiffs claim Amazon did not provide several items required by the ordinance, including a traffic-impact analysis, conclusive evaluation of the facility’s compliance with the town’s noise ordinance, lighting and tree preservation plans, details of the proposed substation supposedly serving the data center or odors that may be created at the site.

While Amazon did not include a formal traffic study in its application, the company projected the site would experience “very little traffic” during and after construction. The company also said the site would not produce any odors, and Amazon noted it would provide a lighting and tree preservation proposal with its site plan at a later date.

Amazon did commission a noise study conducted by Warrenton-based Polysonics Acoustics & Technology Consulting Corporation, which concluded the noise generated by the facility would meet the town’s noise ordinance. But Amazon did not update its application with the final study or several other additional conditions until January – after the Warrenton Planning Commission had already voted on the application – which the plaintiffs’ attorney argued was illegal.

“The second public hearing was never held on the Amazon conditions. Yet, the revised Amazon application, with the new Amazon conditions, was ‘heard by the town council’ and ultimately approved via the Amazon [special-use permit] resolution ... without complying with the ‘second public hearing’ requirement,” the suit states.

The plaintiffs also claim data centers not only “conflict” with the Warrenton 2040 Comprehensive Plan, but the conditions outlined in Amazon’s application "threaten" residents' health and quality of life.

The data center site falls within what the comprehensive plan characterizes as the New Town Warrenton District. The plan designated this area as a mixed residential and commercial development with green spaces and other public amenities.

The site is currently zoned light industrial, meaning whoever owns the property can build anything from greenhouses to flex office space or light manufacturing by right. The council amended the town’s zoning ordinance in August 2021 to include data centers in industrially zoned areas with the approval of a special-use permit.

The suit claims the zoning provisions – designed to protect the citizens – were largely dismissed by councilmembers. Consequently, several plaintiffs, who reside in the Highland and Oak Springs subdivisions adjacent to the site, argued that things like noise, light, dust, and traffic generated by the construction may affect their health.

Moreover, they argued once the facility is operational, the noise generated by the air chillers, pollution from diesel generators and exterior lighting at night would also harm their quality of life and potentially decrease the value of their properties.

Other plaintiffs who live in Old Town and along Falmouth Street noted concerns about the substation Dominion plans to build in Warrenton.

Amazon had initially allocated a significant portion of its property for a substation. But it scrapped those plans last fall after Dominion Energy told the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors it was looking to acquire one of two sites to build a substation and connect the two facilities using underground distribution lines.

One plaintiff claimed their home was directly in the path of the proposed distribution line.

“The Citizens anticipate that the development put in motion by the Amazon SUP will visit specific harms upon their personal and property rights, and the imposition of burdens upon themselves, that while suffered by many in the immediate vicinity, are not shared by all citizens of the Town, the County or the public generally,” the suit stated.

Lastly, the suit claims the approval of the permit is void because the council “improperly” amended the zoning ordinance through a resolution. Instead, the plaintiffs’ attorneys argued the council was required to amend the zoning ordinance with an "ordinance."

“The Amazon [special-use permit] was adopted not by an ordinance, but by and in the form of a resolution,” the suit states.

The plaintiffs have not asked to be compensated for any damages. Instead, they requested a judge declare the special-use permit for a data center, including the attached conditions, “unlawful” and therefore void.

The plaintiffs have also asked the judge to cover their expenses for bringing the case forward.

The town did not respond to FauquierNow's request for comment on the allegations outlined in the suit.

(7) comments


I really see both sides on this data center topic, but totally disagree with the people need to be stopped! Sure a democratic government is expensive John1234, but the voice of the people is what makes it. Another statement that wants to silence anyone who doesn’t agree with you! Is this the type of government you want to live in?


While I agree in principle with this, at this point my take on it is that if we lived in an actual democracy, the voices of the people (which were unequivocally expressed loud and clear on this topic) would have already been heard and the decision made accordingly. It seems clear that the interests of billion dollar corporations continue to override the will of the people, despite what is written in our local constitution. The town has stated that they are honoring property rights of a corporation (not a person), and have failed to act in accordance with their stated charter. This is just one small example in a pool of many, and at all levels. Let this sink in.

Jeff Allen

I think, in my opinion, that the TOWN is afraid of being sued by Amazon if this hadn't been allowed to go forward. Amazon bought the property thinking through the Town and its leadership assurances it wouldn't have any problems.


Meanwhile, Amazon’s property rights trample on other people’s property rights, which is the role of the government and the courts to sort out when a dispute arises. So it’s natural that there will be litigation, particularly if there may be a view that the government has decided without proper consideration of all property rights impinged upon by Amazon. Some uses of one’s property rights impinge more on the property rights of others. This appears to be the case here.

Jeff Allen

The trees have already been destroyed on much of the property. I feel for the people that live near there. If you have ever seen photos of a data center, you will know they are not a pleasant site. They are huge monstrosities that don't belong on hills, that location is ridiculous.


It's going to be one of the biggest eye sores in town. And right as you get off the road too. "What is that thing?" says every visitor.


This people need to be stopped. It’s over!! Move on, don’t waist our tax dollars! I’m town resident and I fully support the Data Center.

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