A rainbow at The Wilderness Battlefield, Spotsylvania and Orange Counties, Va.,

A rainbow fills the sky at The Wilderness Battlefield, Spotsylvania and Orange Counties, Va.,

Buddy Secor

Don’t Let Data Centers Destroy the Wilderness

This spring, Orange County, Va., approved the largest land-use alteration in its history, the rezoning of 2,600 acres at the gateway to the Wilderness Battlefield. It’s the same area where, some 16 years ago, Walmart wanted to build a supercenter, before listening to reason and finding a more appropriate location nearby. In the aftermath, the Trust and its allies worked with the county to craft an overall vision  for this historically sensitive region that would balance growth with preservation of open space.

Sadly, this new proposal is worse — far, far worse — than that original big-box development plan. In the face of overwhelming public opposition, officials approved the building of 5,000 homes and, appallingly, as many data centers and distribution warehouses as they can cram into 750 acres. Originally, that type of hulking, windowless development had been capped at five million square feet, but any semblance of a limit was lifted in the final hours before the vote, creating a material difference in the rezoning application beyond what had been considered by the county’s professional planning staff.

Data centers are necessary components of our digital world, supporting the internet and cloud computing. But through a confluence of policy decisions and geographic convenience, Northern Virginia has become the data center of the world: more than 70 percent of GLOBAL internet traffic flows through Northern Virginia, with more data center facilities going online every day. Despite very real concerns about environmental impacts and the need for expensive upgrades to power lines and the existing power grid, neighboring counties are clamoring to tap into what they see as easy tax revenue.

The Trust and its allies are tracking many such proposals, but most utterly pale in comparison to the threat posed by the Wilderness Crossing development. The sheer scale of it threatens not only the Wilderness Battlefield, but Chancellorsville as well. If ever there was a time to fight, it is now. That’s why we – along with our long-time allies at the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust and Friends of Wilderness Battlefield – have filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the rezoning and block the project.

We truly believe in the merits of our case, but such legal action is costly, and this urgent need comes while we are also pursuing many time-sensitive land preservation projects. Purchasing historic landscapes in this region outright is the most ironclad way to ensure they don’t fall victim to another such proposal.

With so much at stake, the Trust is asking you to help us stop this outrageous proposal. Please consider making a gift toward this special appeal and help us hold the line at the Wilderness. 

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