Special election to be held for Gainesville Co. supervisor amid data center fallout

Prince William County is slated to hold a special election for Gainesville's County supervisor after longtime supervisor Pete Candland resigned amid controversy in December. 

The Manassas Battlefield Park is a historic Virginia landmark where the Union and Confederate Armies met for only the second time. It's also home to small farms and families. 

In December, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors – including Candland – approved the "PW Digital Gateway" data center project, which would transform the aforementioned area. 

When the board voted, Gainesville citizens really didn't have a voice. Candland was advised against voting on anything related to the data centers by the commonwealth's attorney because his property is tied up in the deal. 

"We were just unhappy with him hanging on after he had outlived his usefulness," said Bill Wright, a Gainesville resident. "Once he decided to sell his property for the data centers he couldn't represent us in a very consequential fight. And we felt that if he had to make that decision for his family, that was fine, but he should have stepped aside and let somebody else represent the district."

READ MORE: Prince William Co. board votes in favor of land use charter for data center

On Monday, county Republicans nominated Haymarket Councilman Bob Weir — who says he is not necessarily opposed to the data centers. 

"That being said, data centers don't belong in certain areas," Weir said. "They don't belong next to elementary schools. They don't belong next to residential neighborhoods."

"The problem is one data center created x amount of noise but if you put two or three or four or five or even more data centers, that noise multiplies," he added. "That factor multiples, and it makes life even worse for the residents."

Weir said the county should focus on small businesses instead of relying entirely on data centers for revenue. Political newbie Kerensa Sumers will run as a Democrat. Sumers agrees data centers don’t belong in neighborhoods.

She's running in part to help underserved populations — kids in school and people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. She said she's not 100% in favor of data centers.

"I don't know that the environmental research has been done properly," Sumers said. "There has been talk from different environmental groups about how it has changed the migration pattern of birds. So you have to think how that has an actual huge impact across the board. Having a messed up migration pattern for birds creates a bug bloom which ends up impacting farms."

A special election for Candland's seat is scheduled for Feb. 21.