Virginia Lawmaker Resigns Amid Controversy Over Stake In Data Center Project
A Prince William County official facing public scrutiny over his financial ties to a controversial data center project plans to step down.
County Supervisor Pete Candland announced his resignation Saturday, saying his involvement with the controversial PW Digital Gateway project limited his ability to participate in key county decisions.
The Gainesville Republican planned to sell his home to the developers behind the PW Digital Gateway, and he became a lightning rod for criticism from data center opponents even as he was forced to recuse himself from any votes involving the industry’s rapid growth in the county.
“While I could continue as Supervisor in a more limited role and still get many positive things accomplished, I do not feel this would be in the best interests of the citizens of the Gainesville District,” Candland wrote in a Saturday Facebook post.
Candland was one of 200 landowners who agreed to sell their homes to the developers behind the contentious PW Digital Gateway, which would turn 2,139 largely rural acres into one of the world’s largest digital infrastructure hubs. The plan sparked protests and heated debate in county boardrooms and local editorial pages, with Candland in particular drawing criticism — as well as lawsuits and a recall effort — over what opponents painted as a conflict of interest.
Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney Amy Ashworth ultimately agreed with the critics, issuing an opinion that Candland should recuse himself from any vote involving the project due to his direct financial stake. County supervisors approved the framework for the Digital Gateway last month without Candland’s vote.
Still, Candland had hoped to participate in other land use decisions that could impact the growing number of data center developers with a footprint in Prince William County. But in a second opinion issued Friday, Ashworth said Candland’s involvement in any such decisions constitutes a conflict of interest.
“As I have previously stated, any discussion or commentary by you regarding any data centers in any location that in any way could affect the value of your property creates an improper conflict of interest,” the opinion reads, according to the Washington Post.
Candland announced his resignation shortly after the opinion was issued, saying that while he disagreed with the ruling, his ability to serve as a supervisor would be severely limited by having to abstain from any issues involving the data center industry, a significant force driving land use changes throughout Northern Virginia.
According to the Washington Post, a special election will be held to fill Candland’s seat for the remainder of his term, which ends next year.