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Hanover supervisors approve 1,200-acre data center development

Supervisor Stoneman speaks with a constituent
Lyndon German
VPM News
Beaverdam District Supervisor Jeff Stoneman speaking to constituents during a Hanover County board of supervisors meeting on Wednesday, March 27, 2024. Stoneman is serving his first term as a county supervisor, earning his seat as a result of Virginia's 2023 General Election.

The property is expected to bring in $1.78B in tax revenue during the next 20 years.

Hanover County’s Board of Supervisors approved the development of a 1,200-acre data center technology park in the county’s Beaverdam District, after putting the proposal on pause for more than three weeks.

The project, located east of Interstate 95 along the south side of Hickory Hill Road, has caused a stir among residents who oppose the buildout. Several constituents spoke in opposition to the deal during Wednesday’s board meeting.

Doug Boardman, who’s lived in the Beaverdam District for more than two decades, said he’s never witnessed more public opposition to a project in his district.

“The ‘nos’ to ‘yeses’ at every meeting are vastly in opposition. So, your constituents do not want this,” Boardman said. “Please consider your residents, your constituents and deny this proposal. You don't get a do-over here. Please do not leave this data center as your legacy.”

Despite residents' concerns, Beaveram District Supervisor Jeff Stoneman said the projects’ positives outweigh the negatives.

“I know this project has brought a lot of passion and a lot of emotion, and there's a substantial number of our citizens that are in the Beaverdam District that would prefer a project like this did not come into our area,” Stoneman said during the board’s public hearing. “At some point, we’re going to have to make a call… . I think I'm doing the best that I can for Hanover County, because I see the needs of 110,000 citizens, and not just a few,” he added.

Master plan details

The plan was submitted by Tract— a land acquisitions company specializing in data center developments — for multiple data center campuses on the site, with approximately 30 buildings of various heights. The plan indicated that around 800 employees would be on site.

Hanover previously identified the parcels associated with the development as a good location for economic growth or a job center back in 2007. That plan was later amended in 2017 and 2024 by the county’s recently adopted comprehensive plan to indicate the property was an ideal site for a data center.

Andrew Pompei, Hanover’s deputy planning director, said the county has worked for multiple years to prepare for such a large-scale development.

“We’ve always thought developers would be interested in adding a data center here,” Pompei said in an interview with VPM News. “This will be the first data center development [in the county] of its scale.”

Although Tract is likely to lease or sell the property, the multiacre facility could include some of the largest utility ratepayers in Hanover County; the developer plans on reserving up to 700,000 gallons of water per day for the site.

The facility would also consume large amounts of energy in order to maintain its on-site pump stations, diesel fuel and lithium battery storage systems, and multiple three-megawatt generators used for backup power.

PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that oversees 13 states and Washington, D.C., anticipates peak energy consumption doubling in Virginia by 2040.

Timmons Group
The conceptual plan developed by Tract and the Timmons Group — a Richmond-based design firm — displays revisions to the site’s natural buffers and access roads after multiple community development meetings were held.

Tract is committed to invest between $75 million and $100 million in the project's planned infrastructure. That’s in addition to the company installing natural sound buffers and landscaping that exceed the county’s recommended guidelines for its required zoning.

The Denver-based firm has also agreed to the following:

  • Investing $3.5 million for Hickory Hill Road improvements
  • Improvements at Elletts Crossing and Route 1
  • Securing funds to address potential road damage caused by construction traffic
  • Building an access road to the Hickory Hill African American Slave Cemetery and Ashley Farm — which are both adjacent to the development
  • Paid training for emergency services and first responders to handle data-center calls for service
  • Providing $100,000 to the county for improvements to nearby Washington Lacy Park

The project is expected to generate an estimated $1.78 billion in tax revenue for the county during the next 20 years and was endorsed by Carey Carlisle, Beaverdam’s representative on Hanover’s Economic Development Authority.
“The land in question is historically a rural parcel, and that's something we love about this county, the rural integrity,” Carlisle said during the Wednesday public hearing. “That being said, this project is an opportunity … . The projected revenue is crucial for our infrastructure, parks and schools to be upgraded.”

A person walks into the Hanover County Administraton building, past a sign that reads “No Data Center”
Lyndon German
VPM News
Residents walking towards the Hanover County Administrative Building as the county's board of supervisors prepare to vote on a proposed data center facility that spans over 1,200 acre. Several constituents voiced their opposition to the project and planted several signs in area before the board's vote were cast.

Residents, neighbors voice concerns

Several residents spoke in favor of the monetary benefits that Tract’s plan could bring to the county, but some aren’t buying the county’s claims.

Ron Simmons, who lives just off Hickory Hill Road, told the board he could support the plan — if he and his neighbors didn’t live next to the project, the construction period was shorter and existing road conditions were addressed.

“This would be a great project. It would have a lot of revenue — as we’re all hearing. The only problem is we live here,” Simmons said.

McKey Berkman said she’s concerned over the project's energy consumption and environmental impact. Although Berkman lives in Boston, she said the 250-plus-acre farm adjacent to the site has been in her family for generations — and it's where her ancestors were buried for hundreds of years.

“We oppose this project,” Berkman told the board. “We asked the Board of Supervisors to wait in your consideration of the three requests before you tonight, wait before approving any data center project, especially one the size and complexity of the Tract project.”

Despite residents' demands, the board went on to approve the proposal through three unanimous measures on rezoning, a conditional-use permit and special exceptions related to the project.

Stoneman, who’s serving his first term on the panel, said the vote was the right call for the betterment of the county.

“This project scared me when I first saw it,” he said. “You know, a brand new supervisor having to handle something like this and try to make these kinds of decisions is very intimidating … . It would have been very easy for me to just vote ‘no,’ and let the other supervisors carry the water for me and avoid that political fallout, but I'm not that kind of guy.”

Lyndon German covers Henrico and Hanover counties for VPM News.