WOODBRIDGE, Va. (DC News Now) — More than 250 people signed up to speak in front of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors in person during a public hearing that started Tuesday night, but is expected to continue well into Wednesday morning. Even more signed up to speak virtually.

The public hearing is for the PW Digital Gateway project, a proposal that would rezone more than 2,100 acres of land in preparation for more than 27 million square feet in data centers. It has been a contentious issue, one that has pitted neighbors against each other, sparked protests, and even started recall efforts against two supervisors.

Proponents of the plan said it can be an economic boom and offer relief to Prince William County taxpayers.

“It’s essential for them to keep pace with anybody else in the Northern Virginia area,” said Ruth Ann Pisaretz, who supports the proposal. “Unfortunately, Prince William has lagged behind a bit because they just don’t have the commercial base. They’ve been relying on residential properties. That’s just not sustainable.”

Opponents are critical of potential environmental damages and the impact data centers could have on nearby historic sites, including the Manassas National Battlefield Park and cemeteries.

“This blows a hole the size of the city of Manassas in the rural crescent,” said Willie Deutsch, who opposes the plan. “It permanently destroys our rural area in the county.”

When the Planning Commission passed the proposed plan, it recommended Board of County Supervisors approval — with some amendments, specifically around noise mitigation, environmental measures, and cultural resources.

Amendments presented to supervisors Tuesday night include:

  • Ensuring heating and cooling systems should be used where appropriate to minimize noise impacts.
  • Noise levels should not exceed 60 dBA during the daytime hours and 55 dBA during the evening hours.
  • Development proposals should submit a sound study.
  • Strongly encourage the use of closed-loop water, or no-water cooling systems, and other water efficient systems to minimize impacts to the County’s water resources.
  • If rezoning applicant discovers human remains during cultural resource studies, or during land disturbance activities, the applicant shall comply with all federal and state law regarding the removal and reinterment of those remains to an appropriate location on the property

This is a developing story and will be updated