Warrenton council tables vote on Amazon data center
The Warrenton Town Council tabled a vote on the Amazon data center proposal for 30 days after the company’s legal counsel requested time to review several new conditions of approval council members put forward last Tuesday.
Following the council’s Jan. 10 morning work session, in which Amazon representatives fielded about four hours of questions from council members about the proposed data center, staff wrote several conditions the company would need to agree to before its application for a special-use permit may be approved.
If Amazon later fails to meet the conditions of approval, the town would have the authority to “shut down” the facility.
But several council members, including Ward 2 representative William Semple, expressed skepticism about how the town would enforce these conditions if Amazon violated them down the road.
“We are attempting to create a standard here that we will need to enforce somehow,” Semple said. “I don't think there are enough teeth in this to ensure that if something were to go wrong there would be an adequate incentive – I would say in terms of a penalty – for Amazon to not potentially just disregard it because it's a basic operating expense.”
Ward 3 council member Brett Hamby said he was “not interested in fines” and noted that if Amazon violated the conditions, he wanted the town to make sure the facility is “taken offline.”
Ward 5 council member Jay Heroux echoed Hamby’s point and argued that the town would need to invoke a harsher penalty than just a fine to “incentivize” Amazon to comply with the town’s ordinances.
“This is the standard that we want them to deliver to, and if they don’t comply, they don’t operate,” Heroux said.
Town staff added the following conditions of approval to the application after the morning work session and presented them at the council's request during the Tuesday evening meeting:
BUILDING DESIGN AND ELEVATIONS
► Noise mitigation measures, including but not limited to, silencers, sound walls, acoustical wraps, and/or low noise equipment, shall be utilized to meet § 9-14.2 of the Town of Warrenton Zoning Ordinance relating to noise.
► The Applicant shall produce a site development plan that indicates each phase of the use internal to the building and external as it relates to the technology required for each phase. Each phase will require a conditional Certificate of Occupancy. A final Certificate of Occupancy will be granted upon completion of all phases.
► Each phase shall receive a conditional Certificate of Occupancy upon demonstrating conformance with the requirements of § 9- 14.2 of the Town of Warrenton Zoning Ordinance relating to noise. The Applicant shall provide and pay for a sound test prepared by a qualified party or company approved by the Director of Community Development that demonstrates the operation of each distinct phase as noted in Condition #2 after completion of the construction and prior to the issuance of the conditional Certificate of Occupancy. If the test finds the use does not meet § 9-14.2 of the Town of Warrenton Zoning Ordinance, then there shall be no commencement of use for that phase and no conditional Certificate of Occupancy shall be issued.
► The Applicant shall produce and pay for an annual noise test to be submitted no later than July 1st for the life of the data center use.
► If the use violates § 9-14.2 of the Town of Warrenton Zoning Ordinance relating to noise, then the Applicant shall have 48 hours to mitigate the violation of the use or the Certificate(s) of Occupancy are automatically suspended and the Applicant shall cease the use until such time that the Applicant can demonstrate the use meets said section of the Zoning Ordinance.
► The Applicant will follow the Zoning Ordinance Article. In addition, the Applicant will provide double the Town of Warrenton Zoning Ordinance required landscaping requirements along Lee Highway and Blackwell Road with coniferous trees that provide four season visual coverage. All plantings must consist of native, drought tolerant species appropriate for the Town of Warrenton climate.
TERMINATION OF USE
► If the site becomes inactive for 30 consecutive days or for 30 days in any 180 day period, the property owner shall empty all fuel storage tanks and take all other reasonable steps to prevent any soil or water contamination, to the satisfaction of the Town. Within one year of the termination of the use, the owner shall remove all hazardous materials, underground tanks and pumps, and any environmentally sensitive materials to ensure the soils and environmental features of the site are clean and free of hazardous material as determined by the Town.
VIOLATION OF CONDITIONS
► Violation of any of the conditions of this SUP may result in appropriate enforcement action by the Town, including issuance of a Notice of Violation and Corrective Order and, after notice and an opportunity to be heard, revocation of the SUP. This statement does not limit the remedies of the Town in the event of a violation of the conditions in this SUP nor does it imply any limitation in the Town’s enforcement of conditions in unrelated SUPs.