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Another County Is Looking To Get In On Virginia's Data Center Boom With New Projects, Zoning District


A developer hopes to build multiple data centers in Virginia’s Stafford County, and more data centers could follow close behind as the industry pushes into new territory.

Stafford County has barely registered on the data center industry’s radar until now, but that might be about to change. An unnamed developer plans to build four separate data centers in Stafford, The Potomac Local reports, citing sources familiar with the project. Rather than a single campus, the proposed data centers would be in separate locations, specifically the Falmouth, Griffis-Widewater and George Washington magisterial districts. 

While details on the project remain scarce, it could be the first of many new data center developments to come to the county. Stafford County is also reportedly considering the creation of a data center “overlay district”: a region in which data centers could be built without zoning changes or the need to go through a public feedback process.

The creation of an overlay district — giving data center developers a faster, more painless entitlement and permitting process — could stoke what some local officials say is a growing wave of interest from the data center industry in Stafford County. 

“I’m meeting with as many people as possible because there are definite positives to data centers,” said Falmouth District Supervisor Meg Bohmke, speaking to The Potomac Local. “The key is, where are they going to be located, what will the buffer between them and people’s homes be, and what will they look like when they’re built? We don’t want a bunch of boxy warehouses all over.”

Stafford is the latest county in Virginia to see growing interest from an industry that is rapidly expanding its footprint across the state. Northern Virginia has long been the world’s largest data center market, centered around Loudoun County and its immediate surroundings. But developable land and access to the massive amounts of power needed for these buildings is becoming hard to find in these traditional hubs, and developers are increasingly looking to push into new territory where land and power are more abundant. 

Prince William, Fauquier and Culpeper County have seen the most significant data center development booms in recent months, but the industry’s tendrils have begun extending even farther South as more areas gain access to the optical fiber networks that data centers need. This includes Spotsylvania County — directly south of Stafford — where developers have proposed a 2.9M SF data center campus. 

A potential overlay district in Stafford County is still a ways off: The Potomac Local reports the proposed district’s location and boundaries have yet to be determined. There is also the potential for local pushback to widespread data center build-outs, with political opposition to new data centers flaring up in many of the industry's newest submarkets.

But at least some Stafford officials are hoping to attract a digital infrastructure boom. Indeed, this isn’t the first time lawmakers in Stafford County have enacted policies aimed at courting data centers: In 2019, the county lowered its tax rate on the equipment in data centers in an effort to compete with nearby data center hot spots like Loudoun and Prince William.