Loudoun County, Virginia, Board Revises Data Center Policies and Regulations

November 29, 2022

At its business meeting on Sept. 20, 2022, the Loudoun County Board moved forward with staff directives to amend Zoning Ordinance and Comprehensive Plan language to change regulations and policies affecting data center development throughout Loudoun County, Virginia. In response to the recommendations of the county’s Transportation and Land Use Committee (TLUC), limitations on data center locations and guidance on design standards will be placed on data centers within the county. Below are highlights from the meeting.

  • The Board approved implementation of the majority of TLUC’s Zoning Ordinance recommendations, which would:
  • create a zoning district in the Zoning Ordinance that precludes data centers in the suburban mixed use, suburban neighborhood and suburban compact neighborhood place types; and
  • create use-specific standards in the Zoning Ordinance rewrite that address high-quality building design and regulation of a data center’s proximity to existing or planned residential uses.
  • First, however, Comprehensive Plan amendments must be incorporated to reflect the future changes to the Zoning Ordinance. The Board approved related plan modifications that revise the limits of the suburban mixed use, suburban neighborhood and suburban compact neighborhood place types to:
  • ensure that existing data center development in these areas is not affected by the Zoning Ordinance changes that will now preclude data centers in these place types; and
  • expand the boundaries of the urban transit center place type, where data center are not envisioned, to include the former urban employment place type areas.

The Board did not adopt all of TLUC’s recommendations. Rather than amend the Route 28 tax district conversion process, it instead directed staff to look for and develop alternative conversion processes.

Timing for the amendments is uncertain. The first to take place will be the Comprehensive Plan changes. Staff will need to initiate and develop a work plan, draft language and return to the Board for approval. Potentially, Loudoun County is looking at 12-18 months. The zoning amendment process will follow; however, the Board acknowledged that the design standards could be included in the Zoning Ordinance rewrite, which is currently underway.

McGuireWoods has a team of attorneys and professionals dedicated to proactively addressing issues and opportunities related to Loudoun’s data center industry. We are happy to discuss the potential scope of the Zoning Ordinance and Comprehensive Plan revisions, vested rights for existing data center projects, and other related regulatory matters.