Hanover approves zoning request for 1,200-acre data center project

tract hanover project site 2024

Denver-based developer Tract is planning to lay the groundwork for data center facilities on a 1,200-acre site outside Ashland. (Images courtesy Hanover County)

The Hanover Board of Supervisors has given the nod to a massive planned industrial project outside Ashland.

Development company Tract on Wednesday secured the zoning approval needed to create a 1,200-acre data center park along Hickory Hill Road east of Interstate 95 in Hanover County.

Tract Chief Investment Officer Graham Williams previously told BizSense that the company anticipated the project area would be able to support up to 9 million square feet of data center space spread across 30 buildings on multiple campuses.

While the zoning application’s conceptual plan doesn’t outline a specific vision for the overall project, Tract representatives have said they expect that 10% to 12% of the project area’s acreage would be occupied by the actual data center buildings and associated facilities.

The assemblage is divided into eight so-called building areas where data center facilities, accessory solar facilities, parking and other features would be situated. Building setbacks for the property would range from 150 feet to 250 feet, according to a staff report. The overall project would have about 450 acres, or 37% of the site, used as buffer and open space.

A publicly maintained internal road loop would provide access to the campuses throughout the property. The road would have two entrances on Hickory Hill Road, according to the conceptual plan. Up to two of the future campuses would be able to have direct vehicular access on Hickory Hill Road. There potentially could be a dedicated entrance to an African American cemetery on the property.

The project site is undeveloped, with wooded areas, fields, wetlands, ponds and streams, a staff report states.

Proffered transportation improvements from the developer include $3.5 million in cash to the county to finance road projects on Hickory Hill Road between I-95 and Old Ridge Road and right-turn lanes for each entrance to the development, among other improvements.

tract concept plan 2024

A conceptual plan of Tract’s planned 1,200-acre data center project. Development, which is expected to take the form of multiple campuses, would be located in the yellow areas. Green areas would be set aside as buffer and green space, while the purple areas would be home to substations.

Wednesday’s board vote rezoned the land to limited industrial district (M-1) with conditions from its previous designation as agricultural (A-1). The board also approved requests for a conditional-use permit needed for a public wastewater pumping station, substations and a battery energy storage system as well as a special exception to allow buildings to be constructed up to 110 feet, which is taller than is permitted by right.

The board voted unanimously to approve the project. Staff and the Planning Commission both recommended approval of Tract’s request.

More than a dozen people spoke in opposition to the project at the meeting, including a woman who led a prayer against the proposal. Critics said they were worried about health effects related to the development, traffic impacts and the scale of the project among other issues. Several people spoke in support of the project.

Supervisor Jeff Stoneman, a newcomer to the board since last fall’s elections and representative for the Beaverdam district where the project site is located, responded to concerns about the development’s impact on the county’s rural character by noting it was situated in an area slated for the such development according to per the county’s comprehensive plan.

“I know this project has brought out 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 that a project like this not come into our area,” Stoneman said. “It’s been brought up that we want to keep Hanover rural and that some of us ran on that on as a campaign. And I can’t think of a way that you can do that better than sticking to the comp plan, than placing the growth in areas that it’s designed to go.”

Wednesday’s meeting was the second time the board had considered the project. County supervisors were scheduled to vote on the project at the Feb. 28 meeting but opted to defer their vote until this week.

In the month since the deferral, Tract proffered $100,000 in cash to be paid to the county for improvements to Washington Lacy Park, a county-owned park next to the project site. The developer also agreed to increase the building setbacks for development at the southeastern corner of the project site, an area referred to as Building Area 8.

The project site consists of five parcels that total about 1,200 acres. Since Tract filed its application in September a fifth parcel was added, but it didn’t add a significant amount of new land to the overall acreage.

The ownership of the parcels is split among Blenheim Associates, South Wales Farm LLC (which is tied to Hill Carter) and Tjitse Jozef De Wolff. The assemblage has an assessed value of $7.1 million, according to online land records.

Tract is a development company that acquires and prepares land for data centers and is based in Denver, Colorado. The company has the Hanover project site under contract and has said it intends to finance the construction of infrastructure needed for the data centers and then sell off pieces of the property to other firms that would then build their own data center facilities.

Tract anticipates it will spend $75 million to $100 million on infrastructure at the property, including water and sewer utilities, roads and other projects to make the property site-ready, Kristen Dean, Tract’s director of entitlements, told Hanover supervisors during the meeting. She said that data facilities at the development were expected to start to come online in 2027.

Jeff Geiger of law firm Hirschler represented Tract in its zoning request.

POSTED IN Commercial Real Estate

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Jordan Tucker
Jordan Tucker
21 days ago

What a shame

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
14 days ago
Reply to  Jordan Tucker

Not if you pay taxes in Hanover — you can’t beat data centers for revenue raised-to-infrastructure impact. Things like Data Centers are like money machines for munis — and no new schools, teachers, sidewalks, etc needed.

Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
21 days ago

It’s a good day to be a dominion power investor. I think dominion should consider building a new nuclear reactor or two at Lake Anna and Surry but tack on the extra fees for it only to data centers and instead of all Dominion customers.

Michael Boyer
Michael Boyer
19 days ago

I think that’s REC territory,not Dominion’s

Daniel Graves
Daniel Graves
20 days ago

Government officials continue to deceive the people in this county.The land being zoned for industrial use is fine but give the residents plenty of time to discuss a project this large the supervisors are pressured to go along with this project but making sure the residents are well informed is up to supervisors in every district.They need to know the good and the bad about this project.Most people are not looking at planning or rezoning if it is important to the residents make it known to the people even if the county is going to do the opposite of what… Read more »

Diana Davis
Diana Davis
20 days ago

Ashland has become little Shortpump. When is enough ENOUGH , is there any land left? Money talks and government listens…

Linda Wickham
Linda Wickham
18 days ago
Reply to  Diana Davis

Hanover county is not going to stop, it’s just sad. Property taxes and personal property taxes are already outrageous

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
13 days ago
Reply to  Linda Wickham

They are? What’s the rate?

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
13 days ago
Reply to  Diana Davis

Wow! More Shortpump Hate.

Ashland is not like Short pump, and Shortpump is not a bad place.

Yes, land North of Richmond is valuable, and it will be developed — that is what happens when there is a good economy in a place — it — grows….

There ARE places east of Richmond that have declined since the 1700s — Bowling Green? Port Royal??? No Shortpump there…

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
20 days ago

In my opinion this project will take over a decade before it’s completed. One of the needs that perplexes me is that there will be a solar array on the property. That’s not adequate since solar power isn’t a constant. Hopefully, there’s a better plan for providing redundant electricity, which is required for data centers, or it will take even longer for a full build-out.

Justin Reynolds
Justin Reynolds
19 days ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

Solar power is constant when used with battery storage, because the solar that’s not used goes to the battery during the day and then it’s used overnight.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
13 days ago

“Battery Storage” is mostly a fiction nowadays — it greatly increases the cost of energy when it is not.

They are working on things like “mechanical” batteries of various kinds, but those usually need things to already exist — water to pump higher up, old oilwells that have a weight that can be slowly lifted, an old mine that air can be stuffed inside.

The economics of batteries would make us as fiscally dumb as Germany or California.