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Data Center Rezoning to go before Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors

At its June 4, 2024, meeting, the Pittsylvania County Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of a rezoning request for a data center in the Ringgold area of Pittsylvania County. The recommendation for approval came after a duly advertised and conducted public hearing. The application, submitted by Anchorstone Advisors SOVA, LLC, will go before the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors on July 16, 2024. This is the first data center application for consideration in the County.

The recommendation calls for rezoning 945.79 acres off U.S. Highway 58 and State Road 735 (Cedar Road) in the in the County’s Dan River District from R-1, Residential Suburban Subdivision District, and A-1, Agricultural District, to M-2, Heavy Industrial. The recommendation also calls for amending the County’s Comprehensive Plan’s Future Land Use designation from medium to high density residential and commercial to industrial.

Anchorstone will also be required to obtain a Special Use Permit from the Pittsylvania County Board of Zoning Appeals before construction can begin.

During the Planning Commission meeting, Thomas Gallagher, a representative for Anchorstone, offered several proffers that would bind future owners of the property, including the following:

• The only permitted uses for the property will be a data center, warehousing and distribution, laboratory, research and development, light manufacturing or a telecommunications facility, each as defined by the Pittsylvania County Code;
• Uses not allowed are a raceway, junkyard/salvage yard, landfill, or residential dwellings;
• A Traffic Impact Study and necessary improvements, if required by the number of daily trips;
• A training and orientation program for first responders to understand and meet requirements for life safety;
• Buffers and screening;
• The use of public water and sewer; and
• Advertise to use local labor and trades.

Gallagher stated that the most traffic is anticipated during the construction phase of the project, and those entrances will be approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Traffic will be concentrated on primary roads and will be limited once the data center is operational. Gallagher also advised that the project would adhere to “Dark Sky” principles designed to reduce the amount of light pollution. Those include minimizing the amount of light used and the areas that are illuminated.

At its May 21, 2024, Business Meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved a revision to the Pittsylvania County Code to allow for data centers by special use permit under M-2, Industrial District, Heavy Industry. The addition of data centers to the Code comes with supplementary regulations. These regulations require that the data center be connected to a public water system, if a water-based cooling system is used, along with façade requirements, noise testing and noise restrictions.

A data center is a physical location where computer servers and related hardware are kept, providing remote storage, processing and distribution of large amounts of data. Data centers are used by the private sector, government, and the military, as well as providing reliable connectivity for everyday uses such as texting, email, and social media. The exteriors resemble large warehouse buildings.

Virginia is the largest data center market in the world, with 35% of all known hyperscale data centers worldwide, according to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. The majority are in Northern Virginia.