Opinion: Defer the vote on Devlin Technology Park; the BOCS is not whole

By Ian Lovejoy

If it’s a day that ends in “Y”, then there’s a data center debate going on somewhere in Prince William County.

While much attention has been given to the controversial Digital Gateway, another large data center development is pending, impacting several neighborhoods, schools, and businesses.

Rezoning for The Devlin Technology Park, a 4.25 million square foot data center project, is scheduled for a vote at the Tuesday, February 7 Prince William Board of County Supervisors meeting.  The original vote was deferred in September, and many thought would be brought back up later this year.

Surprisingly, it became on the BOS agenda much sooner than anticipated.

The merits of the project will be debated, no doubt.  With the battle lines being drawn along familiar terrain- those who benefit financially on one side and those who live with the ongoing impacts of the decision on the other.  None of this is a particularly new debate in land use- the timing of this vote, however, is quite unusual.

As many are aware, the Gainesville district has no representative- the board is not whole.

With the February 21 special election looming, one cannot help but imagine this vacancy has played some role in the expedited vote for Devlin.  With board ranks diminished the number of votes needed to pass a rezoning drops, an additional potential voice of decent goes unheard.

While it’s true this project is wholly contained within the Brentsville district, decisions of this magnitude are left to the whole board for a reason- so that countywide impacts can be discussed and considered.  It’s increasingly impossible for the long-term ramifications of large land use decisions to remain contained within arbitrarily drawn political lines.

With the February special election just weeks away, the board has only one honorable choice- defer the Devlin Technology Park vote until after a new Gainesville representative is seated.  As a former city councilman, I can attest firsthand that this may not be what the law requires, but is certainly considered best practice.

Taking up the vote now is an unforced error from a board already marred in controversy, and at best, reeks of poor planning, and at worst, gives the impression of a board attempting to expedite a vote to take advantage of a board vacancy.

Defer the vote.

Ian Lovejoy is running for the Virginia House of Delegates District 22 seat in Manassas and Prince William County.

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