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Virginia residents sue zoning board to block new Amazon data centre

Written by Thu 12 May 2022

Several residents of Culpeper County, Virginia, have filed suit against their local zoning board. The aim of the suit is to nullify a recent decision that would allow AWS to build a new data centre on a large parcel of rural land.

In April, the zoning board voted 4-3 in favor of rezoning 230 acres that are currently being used as a working horse farm. Rezoning the property from agricultural use to a light industrial designation means that Amazon could execute plans to build two large data centres there. Preliminary plans submitted by an Amazon subsidiary, Marvell Developments, LLC, show two six-story data centre facilities covering a total of 445,000 square feet.

The data centres will be built on a 22-acre campus that is part of the rezoned acreage; however, the change in land-use designation means that the entire 230-acre parcel can be used for additional industrial development.

The lawsuit was filed by residents of the property bordering the rezoned horse farm. In it, they allege that the Board of Supervisors’ decision to designate the property for light industrial use violates local and state law, illegally spot-zoning the property contrary to the county’s comprehensive land-use plan.

Placing a light industrial zone in the centre of a rural farming area will not only disrupt the natural beauty of the area, it is seen as an unnecessary circumvention of the areas that have already been designated for this type of use. A parcel of land just six miles away is currently available for construction of a facility like the proposed Amazon data centre.

One of the plaintiffs, Chip Russell, noted that he doesn’t oppose data centres in themselves, only that they should be built in the correctly designated areas. “We welcome Amazon and other data centres in Culpeper, but we don’t want farmland rezoned to industrial. There are five technology zones in Culpeper and existing data centres in the town.”

“We’ve asked, but we haven’t gotten a good answer as to why they won’t build on existing industrial land in the tech zones.”

The change in zoning was approved just three months after the application was submitted, when these types of debates and discussions often take more than a year before a decision is made. The lawsuit also notes that the approval was given even in the face of “heavy opposition by local residents, landowners, and several national historic-preservation groups.”

During the board’s public hearing, Vice Chairman Brad Rosenberger said, “The Comprehensive Plan is your checkbook, but the money in the bank is your zoning ordinance. If you don’t have zoning that backs your comprehensive plan, then you don’t have a thing.”

Written by Thu 12 May 2022

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data centre
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