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Northern Virginia Lawmaker Faces Recall Effort Over Interest In 825-Acre Data Center Development

An elected official in Prince William County who owns part of the site for a controversial data center development is facing a recall petition from residents arguing his financial stake in the project represents a major conflict of interest.

Prince William County Supervisor Pete Candland

The recall effort, launched this week and first reported by Inside NoVa, comes after Supervisor Peter Candland applied to allow data center development on his property last November.

His land is part of an 825-acre parcel where Compass Datacenters hopes to build a 10.25M SF campus, part of a controversial effort to reclassify a swath of land near the Manassas battlefield as a data center district known as the PW Digital Gateway. Although Candland has officially recused himself from voting on issues pertaining to the project, the group behind the recall says that he improperly used his office to advance his financial interests. 

“A serious, ethical person would have realized an elected official who cannot discuss his constituents’ most important issue would have the decency to resign,” Elena Schlossberg, executive director of the Coalition to Protect Prince William County, which is leading the recall effort, said in a press release.

Candland’s office didn't respond to requests for comment. 

For more than a year, the so-called Prince William County Digital Gateway Project, or PW Gateway, has riled some residents and become a subject of heated public debate in county boardrooms and local editorial pages.

If approved by county officials, the PW Gateway would change zoning laws to allow data centers along a 2,000-acre stretch of Prince William County known as the “rural crescent." According to InsideNova, the development would add as much data center space as is currently in use or under construction in neighboring Loudoun County, the world's largest market for data centers. 

Opponents say the creation of a massive hub of industrial buildings and their supporting infrastructure will ruin the character of what is a primarily rural area. The project’s proximity to Manassas National Battlefield — a historic site operated by the National Park Service — is also a central concern for opponents.

As both a member of the Board of Supervisors and a landowner who stands to benefit from the project’s approval, Candland has drawn the ire of PW Gateway’s opponents. In a press release announcing the recall effort on Tuesday, Schlossberg said that despite recusing himself from voting, Candland has continued to use his office to advocate for data center developers and has advised other property owners looking to allow data centers on their land. 

“Far from removing himself from discussion, Candland continues to push the interests of a small group of landowners looking to pocket tens of millions in return for injecting industrial development into the Rural Crescent,” she said.  

Proponents of the recall effort will need to collect around 2,000 signatures to begin the recall process. Under Virginia Law, recalls of elected officials are decided by judges rather than being put before voters.