SAVE FFX & Bren Mar
from Data Centers

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Application Number/Subject: Data Center ZOA


July 10 Update

Thanks to your emails, calls, and engagement at the Planning Commission public hearing we are one step closer to stopping the Plaza 500 data center in Bren Mar and safeguarding other residential and sensitive environmental areas from data centers!


The bottom line is that the Planning Commission took a step in the right direction, but the Board of Supervisors needs to take additional action to strengthen the standards and preserve the positive changes the Planning Commission recommended. 


The Board of Supervisors MUST:

Scroll down for prior updates.

Updated July 10

call to action

Send an Email to the Board of Supervisors NOW
Sample templates below

Email the Board of Supervisors

Sample Email to Board of Supervisors:


Email (all): clerktothebos@fairfaxcounty.gov; mason@fairfaxcounty.gov; chairman@fairfaxcounty.gov; braddock@fairfaxcounty.gov; Dranesville@FairfaxCounty.gov; huntermill@fairfaxcounty.gov; Franconia@fairfaxcounty.gov; mtvernon@fairfaxcounty.gov; providence@fairfaxcounty.gov; springfield@fairfaxcounty.gov; sully@fairfaxcounty.gov; brenmar@googlegroups.com  


Subject: Data Center ZOA- Do Not Exempt Unapproved Applications, incl. Plaza 500


Text


Board of Supervisors:


As a resident of Fairfax County, I am deeply concerned by the impact of data centers on our communities. 


[Add a personal note as to why you are concerned about data centers. What impact will it have on your community, noise concerns, the environment, quality of life, etc.]


I am calling on you to put your constituents first by strengthening and preserving the recommendations unanimously approved by the Planning Commission. 


Your Vote on the Data Center Zoning Ordinance Amendment Will Send the Following Messages to Me as a Constituent:





Thank you,


[NAME]

[ADDRESS]

Call Board of Supervisors

Phone Numbers


Script


As a resident of Fairfax County who is deeply concerned by the impact of data centers on our communities. Your Vote on the Data Center Zoning Ordinance Amendment Will Send the Following Messages to Me as a Constituent:





your supervisor on the record

In January, the Board of Supervisors approved a Chantilly data center through a Special Exception review, stating that the review, which included extensive community input, resulted in plan changes that  would meet the County recommended standards. 

Plaza 500 will not have such review if by right development is not stopped.

Are the Supervisors' words meaningful if they let the Plaza 500 data center be built without higher standards, Board review, and public input?

Supervisor Quotes

Chairman Jeff McKay

Vice-Chairman Kathy Smith (Sully District)

Supervisor Andres Jimenez (Mason District)

Supervisor James Walkinshaw (Braddock District)

Supervisor James Bierman, Jr. (Dranesville District)

Supervisor Rodney Lusk (Franconia District)

Supervisor Walter Alcorn (Hunter Mill District)

Supervisor Daniel Storck (Mount Vernon District)

Supervisor Dalia Palchik (Providence District)

Supervisor Pat Herrity (Springfield District)

The Bren Mar community

Residential and recreation land surround Plaza 500 on both sides of the Fairfax / Alexandria line. 
There should not be a data center this close to our neighborhoods.

Color Key
Yellow (Residential) | Purple (Planned Residential and Commercial) | Green (Recreation and Parks) Blue (Commercial) | Red (Industrial)

Past updates

May 25 Update:

On May 17, Fairfax County released the Staff Report with the proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance to add increased protections for residents. These recommendations do not go far enough as they fail to include any of the recommendations provided at the community meetings. 

The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors must adopt the highest standards possible (in Chairman McKay's words, the gold standard). 

This includes requiring a Special Exception (public hearing and approval) for all data centers (the staff report allows for consideration of all options here), a residential setback of at least 1,000 ft. (the staff report only allows for consideration of up to 500 ft., and recommends 200 ft.), and a requirement that data centers not be located within 1 mile of a metro station entrance (staff report recommends 1/2 mile with option for up to 1-mile).  

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and anticipated vote on Wednesday, June 5 at 7pm and the Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing and anticipated vote on Tuesday, July 16 at 4pm.  

May 2 Update:

The county is actively reviewing changes to the Zoning Ordinance for Data Center to add increased protections for residents. Our community must be vocal and demand that these changes include robust protections for residents from data centers like that proposed at Plaza 500. We believe if the county acts by the July 16 Board of Supervisors meeting these would have to apply to Plaza 500 (and all future data centers in the county).

On May 2, 6, and 7 the county will be holding virtual community meetings on the proposed changes. Use the Take Action Resources to raise the 6 Key Changes we need at the meetings and in emails to the county Department of Planning and Development, the Planning Commission, and the Board of Supervisors.  

NOW is our opportunity to influence the draft amendment text!!

Send an email and plan to attend the meetings (info and resources below)

April 15 Update:

On April 9, over 130 residents attended the Dominion Energy Community Meeting/Open House to express their concerns about the proposed data center electrical substation. In the coming months there will be opportunities to engage Dominion Energy, the State Corporation Commission (which reviews the substation application), and the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors through emails, public hearings, and other communication. 

Save Bren Mar is hard at work determining our next steps in terms of engagement and will be in touch very soon! 

March 12 Update:

Thank you for taking action to contact the Board of Supervisors! More than 400 emails have been sent to the Board and civic and community associations across the county are joining us! Our efforts are drawing attention from the Board and media. Please keep it up because more is needed.

The Board has committed to moving forward on data center changes to the Zoning Ordinance with a July completion date. While this is a positive development, they must act first and immediately to change the Zoning Ordinance to require a Special Exception for data centers in all Industrial Districts. This is the only way to ensure a public process and approval by the Board of Supervisors.


We remain convinced that the Board does have time to lawfully adopt a Zoning Ordinance Amendment to end by right development of data centers. While most site plan submissions are typically approved within "60 days from receipt of a complete submission" (see Zoning Ordinance § 8100.7), they take on average 6 to 9 months before a determination is made. This likely means the Board has more time than it thinks because "the review period only includes the time the site plan is in for County review and does not include such time as may be required by the applicant for revisions or modifications in response to comments from the County to comply with the Ordinance."


 We continue to engage with the county concerning our efforts and are pushing them closer to action.  We met with Sup. Jimenez and his staff to express our community concerns and call on him to take action. We are urgently awaiting his response and plan.

What You Need to Know

Out-of-state developer, Starwood Capital Group, submitted a site plan to build a massive 461,444 sq. ft., 70 ft. tall industrial data center in the heart of a residential community. The data center will be less than 260 ft. from residential property, and its new very large electrical substation will be less than 100 ft. away. This would be the 5th largest data center in the County and the closest of its size to residential homes.


There will be no public hearings or public input without emergency action by the Board of Supervisors because this is a by-right "Permitted" development. We agree with the County staff recommendation to revise permissions to require Special Exception approval for data centers, regardless of size.

The submitted site plan calls for a massive industrial data center and new electrical substation at the site of Plaza 500's current offices and warehouse. Starwood Capital Group will use by-right "Permitted" development under the Zoning Ordinance to demolish the site and build the data center without public input or negotiation with the County.


This data center would be in the heart of our residential community -- less than 260 ft. from residential property, and the new very large electrical substation will be less than 100 ft. away. It will have a negative impact on our community: creating noise and light disturbance 24 hours a day 7 days a week, requiring very high energy and water use, emitting potentially harmful pollutants, and impacting property values.


This massive data center site plan will drastically change the community and cut off access to future mixed use development (PDF). Our community anticipates positive residential and retail development over the coming years with the redevelopment of Landmark Mall and Van Dorn Street. A data center would be a permanent eyesore among other residential developments, amenities, and positive growth.

Transmission lines and electrical substation rendering for owner's project in Herndon (Public Record SE 2021-SU-00017)
Example photo of small data center and cooling structures.
Small Data Center and Cooling Structures

What is it? Data centers are industrial complexes that house acres of computer systems for storing virtual information. Massive infrastructure must be built to support these complexes, including transmission, water, and sewer lines. Data centers are slated to account for a fifth of the world's electricity usage and more than 3% of carbon emissions by 2025. In 2020, data centers consumed an estimated 174 billion gallons of water. A 15-megawatt data center can use up to 360,000 gallons of water a day.

National Parks Conservation Association, Keep Massive Industrial Data Centers Away from our National Parks

References

Site Plan

Electrical Substation

Plaza 500 News

County Recommendations

Community Letters to County and Public Testimony

Data Center Concerns

Q&A

What is in the site plan?

We know the square footage, height, and placement of two data center buildings on the property, as well as the placement of a new electrical substation. The site plan shows the data center buildings are less than 260 feet away from residential property to the West and 570 feet away from residential property to the North. The electrical substation will be less than 100 feet away from residential property.

The site plan does not have all the details needed to fully understand the impact of the data center. For example, there are no details on the type, size, or location of cooling towers, emergency backup generators, fuel storage, or electrical transmission lines.

Why is action needed immediately?

We understand the County is required to "accept" the site plan 60 days after submission. County staff have said that the Board of Supervisors has until acceptance of the site plan to change the Zoning Ordinance standards that would apply to the site. An urgent amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to change the by-right “Permitted” development of data centers to a “Special Exception” before acceptance is the only way ensure a public process for hearings, reviews, and changes to protect residents. Both the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission will need to provide public notice and hearings on the Zoning Ordinance amendment. The time is tight, but it's possible and not without precedent. 

What did County staff recommend about by right data center development?

In their Data Centers Report and Recommendations, County staff recommended the Board of Supervisors "consider revising permissions to require SE approval for data centers, regardless of size, in the C-3, C-4, and I-2 through I-6 Districts. In addition to recommendations ... under other topic areas, standards for special exception review should include the consideration of the size of a proposed data center and its distance (buildings and generators) from surrounding existing and planned residential development."

Are Fairfax County standards the highest in Virginia?

Not yet. There are no data center-specific standards that apply to data centers built in an I-5 District. The Board of Supervisors will hopefully consider higher standards, including those proposed in recent County Recommendations, but any higher standard will not apply to Plaza 500 if by-right "Permitted" development is allowed to continue.

How is the Plaza 500 data center different than the Chantilly data center approved in January?

The Chantilly data center will be 110 ft. tall. It will have smaller square footage than Plaza 500 and will be nearly half a mile away from residential property.

This website relies on data centers. Why oppose them?

Data centers are important for modern, internet-enabled living. Mega data centers should be located near similar heavy industry and away from residential homes because of the impact they have on neighboring properties. 

Who is organizing the Save Bren Mar effort?

Local concerned private residents. We are not affiliated with any group, organization, or company. Contact us at SaveBrenMar@gmail.com to get involved.

Together we can
SAVE our communities!