Fairfax County residents organize against data center rezoning

In Fairfax County, a victory for homeowners who suspected a data center was headed to their community. 

Neighbors in the Bren Mar section of the county, close to the Alexandria city line and Van Dorn Street Metro Station, got their first clue when they spotted a flier about a proposed rezone for an area near their homes.

There was nothing remotely indicating anything about a data center, but neighbors started investigating — looking into the developer and what exactly would be possible with this rezone. 

Their suspicions were augmented by data center debates in neighboring Prince William County, where plans for a data center were approved earlier this month in a meeting that lasted all night due to the huge public response.

RELATED: Prince William County data centers plan sparks controversy among residents, leaders

"I think we saw a lot of the coverage in Prince William County that FOX 5 had done previously, and I think that raised the awareness of the issue for our community," said Bren Mar resident Tyler Ray. "We saw the impact that it could have in other communities and just got really concerned. With the developer not willing to share what their plans are and all signs pointing to a data center, we relied on that reporting to say, ‘We as a community need to organize ourselves, to voice opposition or this could happen to us.’"

Ray started a website with research he and others had done on the issue. Neighbors started spreading the word and speaking out and writing letters to elected leaders.

On Wednesday, their advocacy paid off.

Neighbors gathered before the Fairfax County Planning Commission who were prepared to vote on the rezone.

They learned the developer had requested an indefinite deferral on the rezone application, and the commission voted to accept the deferral.

"We’re ecstatic at the decision to essentially defer the application indefinitely however our concern long term is it’s not a complete denial," said Bren Mar resident Mary Bowen. "So what does that mean down the road? We will all be watching it very closely."

At the meeting, the planning commission acknowledged the community’s suspicions, saying this rezone could have paved the way for a massive data center close to homes, and that the applicant refused to say they weren’t developing a data center.

There was also the acknowledgment that if the rezone had been approved by the commission and approved by the board of supervisors, a data center could have been built without any public input.