Sometimes someone says something that is so striking that you want to shout it from the rooftops. In the situation to which I am referring, it happens to be the perfect message to Warrenton town officials about Amazon’s proposed data center.
In late October, Citizens for Fauquier County (CFFC) co-hosted a town hall on the special use permit (SUP) for the proposed Amazon data center next to Country Chevrolet at the eastern gateway to our historic town. At this meeting there were many who questioned why the town would even consider approving a data center at this location, and who were concerned about the lack of transparency (and possibly worse) regarding how this entire situation has been handled by the town and Amazon. Toward the end of the question and answer session, someone in the audience said, “It’s never too late to get it right.” That person hit the nail on the head.
So how do town officials get it right now. Well first of all, the town planning commission should recognize that the public hearing scheduled for next Tuesday (November 15th) is entirely premature because, by the admission of Amazon and at least two planning commissioners, the application is incomplete. Similarly, a planning commission vote/recommendation to the town council then is also premature for the same reason even if the planning commission is under the false impression that it has to vote because of some questionable interpretation of a 100-day rule.
So how else could the town get it right now?
1. Amazon should submit a complete application as is required. They haven’t done a credible noise study and their analysis of the visual impacts of what would be Warrenton’s newest landmark is flawed as well. There are serious health consequences to town residents from this proposed facility and the 24/7 noise and vibration it will generate.
2. The town should postpone any decision on the data center until its new town council and planning commission are in place in January. How can it possibly make sense that individuals who will not be in office going forward would make such an important decision, and that new office holders elected last Tuesday would not be able to vote on it? It doesn’t.
3. A comprehensive and impartial review should be conducted to understand if Amazon and possibility others exerted inappropriate influence on the process. The more the town knows, the easier it will be to avoid similar issues going forward.
4. Town residents should be fully informed about the proposed facility and the town’s long-term data center plans. It is crystal clear that Amazon’s data center, if approved, would lead to more.
5. Town officials should respect the most essential requirements for approving a SUP. Based on the town’s own rules, any SUP must meet two conditions. It must first be consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan. Second, the proposed development must not adversely affect surrounding homes and businesses. The comprehensive plan had targeted the Amazon site for mixed development. And this data center would seriously tarnish one of the town’s main gateways, generate noise and vibration constantly causing physical and mental harm to hundreds of residents, and lead to massive power towers and transmission lines.
6. The town should seek additional expertise. It is relying way too much on Amazon and the company’s lawyers and experts. CFFC has tremendous knowledge on this data center, but has been largely ignored by town officials.
So, to Warrenton’s town staff, planning commission and town council, please take these words to heart – “It’s never too late to get it right.” You are responsible for the well-being of our town and its citizens so I hope you do.
Ramundo is President of Citizens for Fauquier County, the oldest citizens group in the county dedicated to protecting open space, preserving historical resources and supporting agriculture.
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