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One Year Later: The Battle to Protect Warrenton from the Amazon Data Center

Joint Statement of Protect Fauquier, Piedmont Environmental Council, and Citizens for Fauquier County


One year ago, on July 12, 2022, scores of citizens came to the Warrenton Town Council meeting to protest the proposed Amazon Data Center on Blackwell Road. They also protested proposals for miles of high voltage transmission lines through the County and Town.

These residents of the Town and County appeared that night despite a fierce thunderstorm that was raging outside, and despite weather warnings that people should stay home. It was a portent of the year to come in Warrenton, a portent of many more meetings and citizen protests.

Citizens who appeared on July 12 spoke on behalf of Protect Fauquier, the Piedmont Environmental Council, and Citizens for Fauquier County -- and as individual residents of the Town and County. They came from all walks of life and a full range of political viewpoints. They emphasized the inappropriateness of a massive data center on the gateway into the small historic town of Warrenton. They opposed a 220,000 square foot data center adjacent to residential neighborhoods -- Oak Springs, the Warrenton Highlands, and North Rock -- where homes would be subjected to constant data center noise and vibration, 24/7, 365 days a year.

They also spoke against a secretive town process that, in 2021, had approved a data center zoning amendment that conflicted with the Town's Comprehensive Plan, written in close concert with Amazon, without any proactive effort of the town to seek citizen views. They spoke against Nondisclosure Agreements that Town employees signed with Amazon, to withhold information from the residents of the Town.

Over the next year, more than 2,000 citizens signed a petition against the Amazon data center on Blackwell Road. No one signed a petition for Amazon. Hundreds of citizens have spoken at Town Council meetings, Planning Commission hearings, and Town Council hearings. There was an extraordinary turn-out at the February 14 hearing at Fauquier High School.

Town Council members who voted for Amazon claimed they received “numerous” emails, cards, letters, and texts in support of Amazon. This is not true. Based on FOIA'd records of the Town, at least 389 individuals wrote in opposition to the data center and against a process in which citizens felt stonewalled. There were just 11 individuals who submitted comments in support of the data center. This data covers a 4-month period, from 11/1/22 - 2/21/23, and is based on FOIA'd records of Council Member Heroux's emails and the Town's official electronic public comment site.

The resistance to the Amazon data center succeeded in key ways:

  • Dominion Energy pulled back its proposed miles of overhead transmission lines in the Town and County;

  • Dominion and Amazon dropped their proposal for a large electric substation on Blackwell Road;

  • Dominion and Amazon agreed to bury distribution lines to the Blackwell site; and

  • Amazon revised its design for the data center, to be less monolithic and industrial.

These changes were due entirely to citizen resistance, as the Town seemed ready to acquiesce to whatever Amazon proposed. (Unfortunately, the substation and power line relocation are now a threat to other Warrenton neighborhoods.)

The Town Council's 4-3 vote on February 15, 2023, to approve the Amazon Special Use Permit, is now the subject of a lawsuit filed by 10 Town residents and Citizens for Fauquier County. Citizens continue to resist in other ways, protesting Amazon's violation of SUP provisions and Amazon's grossly deficient site development plan -- a document which omitted key SUP requirements and was otherwise in conflict with multiple requirements and replete with inconsistencies. The Town's own staff documented 41 pages of issues with Amazon's Site Development Plan.

It has been a tumultuous year, one that attests to the commitment of residents of the Town and County to protect the qualities of the Town and County that they cherish and will fight to preserve. As many long-time residents said, "We have never seen the people of this Town and County come together so overwhelmingly on one issue."

As we mark this one-year anniversary, Protect Fauquier, the Piedmont Environmental Council, and Citizens for Fauquier County remain vigilant. We will continue this battle -- to halt the Amazon data center and to reform Town government -- into another year.

Mike Fultz, Protect Fauquier

Julie Bolthouse, Piedmont Environmental Council

Kevin Ramundo, Citizens for Fauquier County

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