By Kevin Ramundo
I believe that Fauquier’s long and successful • tradition of open space and preservation is at risk in ways not seen since CFFC got its start in the mid 1980’s when a proposed 3,200 home development in North Wales was successfully opposed. Yes, there have been restaurants and resorts proposed for rural areas, a few, mostly minor subdivisions, and farm wineries and breweries, but what we’re seeing now is • unprecedented in terms of magnitude and possible impact.
It’s a perfect storm of development pressure from all around and from within Fauquier:
Prince William County immediately to our east is contemplating major changes to its Comprehensive Plan to allow significant • development in an area known as the Rural Crescent which was established in 1998 as a large rural area to protect against development in the rest of Prince William. See the article on page 2.
Culpeper County approved the Clevengers Village development immediately adjacent to Fauquier at the intersection of Rixeyville Road and Lee Highway. Consisting of 1,700 acres, almost 800 homes and 400,000 square feet of commercial space, this approved development will increase congestion on existing roads and calls for new ones. And to our north in Loudoun County, applications for housing and data centers in the undeveloped areas in the east and central areas of the county are increasing competition for land and could add development pressure in the rural western part of the county which shares a lengthy border with Fauquier.
The development threat is not just on the county’s borders. The town of Warrenton adopted a fast-growth comprehensive plan in Spring of 2021 and more recently, has proposed adding 1,100 acres of county land, much of it rural, to the town.
These threats are being driven by powerful socio-economic forces. The ever-growing internet economy will continue to increase demand for huge data centers that house the servers and networking equipment. These facilities are so large that they make big-box stores look like 7-11s. There are 140 data centers in Loudoun and a new area of Prince William’s Rural Crescent may be rezoned to allow them. And there are plans to build an Amazon data center in Warrenton, and Dominion Power is planning to extend a high-voltage power line across eastern Fauquier to provide electricity to it. And there is also the prospect of losing valuable farmland and forests to so-called solar “farms” being proposed for the southern part of the county. These facilities can consume hundreds, if not thousands, of acres, and adversely impact agriculture which is the largest single sector of Fauquier’s economy, and which contributes to our rural landscapes and tourism. Yes, we all want more green energy as climate change concerns increase, but not at the cost of our farms and forests. See Utility-Scale Solar – Concerns Abound by David Gibson.
What is occurring in Fauquier County is fundamentally different than before. In the past, our growth was driven by the influx of new residents seeking lower cost housing, less congestion, and more open space than what they could find in neighboring counties. Now it is being driven by societal demands that lead to big data centers, distribution centers to facilitate on-line purchasing, and green energy generation, along with the increasingly tight housing markets throughout Northern Virginia.
CFFC is and will continue to understand these issues and recommend ways to balance growth and the county’s rural heritage. But CFFC and others committed to keeping our county’s open space, farms and historical treasures will need more support than ever from Fauquier’s citizens.