A Closer Look at Culpeper County Tech Zones | Technology

There are five “Tech Zones” in Culpeper County in which eligible businesses can receive up to 80% rebate, for five years, on county real estate, business personal property, and tools and business taxes. machinery.

Eligible businesses may also receive 100% reimbursement of costs associated with county building permits and site plan review.

Technology Zones are located along Lovers Lane, McDevitt Drive, Braggs Corner, at Brandy Station and Elkwood Airpark, all generally following the James Madison Expressway.

So why isn’t Amazon building its proposed data centers in one of these technology zones and not on farmland, which requires rezoning to light industrial, along Highway 3 in Stevensburg?

That’s a question members of the historic and natural resource conservation community are asking as they oppose a proposed pair of data centers spanning 10 fenced acres on a 243-acre parcel currently used as a riding stable.

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The site is adjacent to the Salubria Colonial Rectory, a National Register property, and is overlooked by a state-recognized Civil War Historic Site at Hansbrough’s Ridge, bordering Battlefields State Park. of Culpeper.

The preservation community has spoken out opposing the project as being in the wrong place.

Culpeper County’s technology zones, incentives, and associated county code have been around since 2006, according to county planning director Sam McLearen.

Terremark’s data center, now Equinix, was the first (and so far only qualified company) to locate in a tech zone, along McDevitt Drive. The facility expanded over the next few years to cover four data centers.

There have been other types of commercial and industrial developments in these areas, McLearen said, listing a hotel, an office building, an industrial complex and a gas station with a convenience store and mini-warehouse.

“I don’t believe any of these qualify as a ‘tech zone business’ as described in the county tax code,” he said.

Culpeper County Economic Development Director Bryan Rothamel, who has been on the job for six months, said his office is marketing available properties in the county on its website, noting areas in technology zones.

A tech zone site on McDevitt Drive was sold in September, but no plans have yet been submitted, Rothamel said.

“Tech zones are generally created within the Commonwealth to have targeted and incentivized zones in their own right,” he said.

Asked about the power supply available in these areas with respect to data centers, Rothamel said data center power consumption is significantly higher than that of a typical industrial user.

“In our discussions with our electrical service providers, we understand that this type of use would normally require power supply upgrades for nearly all sites in Culpeper County,” he said. “Some areas of the county have had enough of a phased approach.”

Amazon, through its subsidiary Marvell Development, is proposing to build the estimated half-billion-dollar project in phases, with a forecast of 15 to 30 months to build each structure, which will be 45 feet tall. Roof-mounted installations would add an additional 12 feet, according to the applicant’s most recent submission.

The site location at the privately owned Magnolia Equestrian Center is along a four-lane highway near the newly renovated Remington-Gordonsville Dominion transmission line. The new lines have enough power to power the project, unlike the county’s so-called technology zones, according to John Foote, Marvell’s attorney in Northern Virginia.

This is why Marvell chose Amazon’s data center location, Foote said, and because there is a willing landowner.

The application presented to the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday evening is to rezone the parcel from agriculture to light industry.

The Planning Commission last month, by a 5-4 vote, recommended the rezoning be denied after its initial review of the case, after hours of public comment against it.

Further public comments against him are expected on Tuesday evening. Brandy Station Foundation, Cedar Mountain Battlefield Friends, Germanna Foundation, Journey Through Hallowed Ground, Piedmont Environmental Council, Preservation Virginia, American Battlefield Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, and Southern Environmental Law Center have wrote together to the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors to express their “I strongly believe that this project is inappropriate for the proposed area.”

Points made in the letter include that data centers are welcome in existing technology corridors in industrial areas; the rezoning goes against the comp plan which has the area zoned for agricultural use; and the project threatens historic resources. The groups also said the Amazon data centers at the Stevensburg site would endanger the proposed state park.

On March 31, Foote submitted 10 pages of comments answering staff questions about the project. Answers to questions regarding water use, screens and landscaping, noise, emergency services training, traffic impact and historic resources. The document can be viewed on Culpeper County Boarddocs.

In its submission, Foote said the project, once operational, would generate between $5 million and $8 million a year in local taxes.

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