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Hundreds Register for PW Digital Gateway Audience; deadline to speak tomorrow | Securities

Prince William County officials are trying to manage the hundreds of residents who want to speak at Thursday’s listening session on the PW digital gateway project.

Several people were notified on Monday that they were on a waiting list for a position to speak in person at Thursday’s meeting.

The county is hosting Thursday’s listening session to get feedback on the PW Digital Gateway – a proposal that could pave the way for more than 27.6 million square feet of data centers along or near Pageland Lane as much data center space as is currently in use or under construction in neighboring Loudoun Countythe largest concentration of facilities of this type in the world.

Data centers are essentially large warehouses that contain the mechanisms necessary to support computer systems, including the digital storage that powers large portions of the Internet.

The gateway proposal is a request for the county to change the land designation of properties along Pageland Lane in the overall plan from agricultural zoning to technological zoning.

An amendment to the overall plan only changes what the county says it hopes for the future use of the land. It does not bind the county, council or landowners to any guaranteed future use. Properties would still require zoning approval to allow data centers.

County officials are juggling the needs of people who want to speak in person, virtual speakers, and adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols at George Mason University’s Beacon Hall Conference Center.

Dozens of people regularly speak about the proposal in public comments before the Planning Commission and Supervisory Board. Thursday’s meeting is drawing a large number of registrations and may require an additional listening session to accommodate speakers.

After receiving complaints on Monday, the county said there was no waiting list for in-person public comment at 4:45 p.m.

Deputy planning director Meika Daus said the county has increased the number of tickets available to accommodate additional attendees. She said the in-person capacity had been set at 300 but, due to a push to increase the number, the capacity was added. She said there are currently no increased capacity limits, but the county will “coordinate with GMU facility staff to accommodate those who wish to attend in person.”

So far, 325 people have registered to attend the listening session in person.

She said that although there is no cap on the number of in-person speakers. However, the county’s contract with GMU requires the session to end at 10:30 p.m. The session begins with an open house at 6 p.m. followed by a public consultation from 7 p.m.

Daus said if the county doesn’t have time to hear from everyone who has signed up, “staff will complete virtual speakers in a virtual format at a later date, likely the following week.”

As of now, Daus said the county thinks it can host in-person speakers before the 10:30 p.m. deadline, but “if that changes by the time registration closes Wednesday at 5:00 p.m., we’ll develop a plan and share it.” . schedule with registered speakers.

“We will consider additional listening sessions if needed,” she said. “The goal of the Planning Office is to provide people with opportunities to speak and engage in the process, and we will ensure there are adequate opportunities for this to happen.”

The issues with Thursday’s session come after criticism from a listening session last week about the county’s ongoing review of the Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District and its possible expansion.

Last week’s session was meant to be a hybrid event with in-person and remote participation. However, officials moved to fully virtual due to the potential wintry weather, although the weather remained mostly clear overnight.

For more information on the PW Digital Gateway meeting, or to register, visit pwcva.gov/department/planning-office/pw-digital-gateway

The deadline to register to speak at the session is 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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