The Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted 5-2 along party lines Monday morning to approve the construction of data centers on privately held sites next to Manassas National Battlefield Park, after a contentious, all-night public hearing.
The Democrat-led vote to redesignate 2,139 acres of rural land on the park’s western border clears the way for QTS Realty Trust and Compass Datacenters to obtain rezoning and construction permits.
Officials estimate the 27.6 million square feet of data centers in the PW Digital Gateway will generate $400 million in annual tax revenue.
Board Chair Ann B. Wheeler, Vice Chair Margaret Angela Franklin, Victor S. Angry, Andrea O. Bailey and Kenny Boddye voted for the data centers.
“Only now have I seen some people actually express an interest in [county] history,” Ms. Franklin said, claiming that project opponents had “weaponized” it.
The vote overrides public opposition from the Prince William County Historical Commission, Manassas Battlefield National Park and the American Battlefield Trust.
Supervisors voted at 9:47 a.m. after 239 people had addressed them during a 14-hour meeting that started at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“People died and were buried beyond the national park property,” said Blaine Pearsall, Gainesville’s representative on the historical commission. “Some were buried and are still there.”
Historians say the development site includes marked and unmarked graves and undiscovered artifacts from the first and second battles of Bull Run. The National Park Service had never been able to acquire the properties from their owners.
Leesburg-based Compass has pledged to preserve any historical artifacts.
Political resistance came from the board’s Republican supervisors and officials in neighboring Fairfax County.
Ms. Wheeler clashed several times with audience members and Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, who tried to delay the vote.
Supervisor Yesli Vega, the Republican nominee for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, also voted no and called the proposal “not transparent.”
She cited Fairfax officials’ objections to the development’s impact on the Occoquan reservoir, which supplies drinking water to many residents downstream from the project site.
Republican Supervisor Pete Candland recused himself due to a conflict of interest: He lives on a property in Pageland Lane, the proposed development area, that he has pledged to sell to developers.
A total of 102 landowners in the development area have agreed to sell their properties for a collective $2.1 billion.
Among those who spoke, 128 voiced opposition to the proposal and 111 expressed support — including 65 landowners and six developers’ representatives.