From Town Center to Tech Park: How Did We Get Here?

From Town Center to Tech Park: How Did We Get Here?

With the Devlin Tech Park vote, Prince William County marks the rezoning of the final parcel in what could have been Stone Haven, a proposed vibrant town center in Bristow. It’s worthwhile to ask, “How did we get here?” The answer stretches back over a decade and is a stark reminder of what can happen when political incentives and expediency override people-first land-use policies. It is a tale of what happens when housing is demonized and, one by one, planned neighborhoods are swallowed into the abyss of data center development.

  • 2012: The Board of Supervisors directed County planning staff to study 800+ acres in Bristow, between Devlin and Linton Hall roads. That study, which included an analysis of infrastructure needs and four public engagement meetings, resulted in the Stone Haven proposal, featuring 1,650 residential units, over 1M square feet of commercial space, significant open space, a dedicated high school site and a potential middle school site. Plans included a cohesive network of improved roads and trails, with the density to support a VRE station and create transit-oriented development.
  • 2014: Some nearby residents raised objections to the proposed development. Jeanine Lawson makes opposition to new housing central to her campaign for Brentsville District Supervisor. Within weeks of Lawson winning the election, the project was put on hold indefinitely. 
  • 2015-2019: Supervisor Lawson oversaw a piecemeal rezoning of the former Stone Haven parcels, with the majority included in a newly created Data Center Overlay District. During this time, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and other industry leaders purchased much of the former Stone Haven land. What could have been a vibrant, mixed-use destination was instead planned as a massive series of data center campuses adjacent to existing homes and schools. Eventually, this left the Hunter and Devlin properties as the only significant parcels still zoned for housing. 
  • 2020: Supervisor Lawson prevents a Public Hearing on Stanley Martin’s proposal to build 551 single-family homes on the 269-acre Hunter property, citing that the plan is “too dense” at one home per 2.23 acre, even with a proposed $24.9M in proffers to offset impacts to schools, roads, public safety, and other County services.
  • 2022: Supervisor Lawson partnered with Stanley Martin to propose a Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) allowing data centers to be built at Devlin instead of housing, saying the could be a better fit for the area. She said the property has a limestone bed and that residential construction would require more intense blasting than data centers. I cast the sole no-vote on this CPA.
  • 2021: In line with the now-existing development pattern, the Board approved a data center campus at the Gainesville Tech Park , and then the Hunter property. I cast the sole no-vote in the Hunter case due to its proximity Amberleigh Station and Piney Branch Elementary School. The project had support from the Brentsville Planning Commissioner and was championed by Supervisor Lawson. This left Devlin as the last former Stone Haven parcel zoned for housing. With their votes, the Brentsville representatives set the stage for building a neighborhood that would have been fully encompassed by data centers if not rezoned. 
  • 2023: The Board faced leaving the existing Devlin zoning in place, allowing for new housing surrounded by intense data center use, or adjusting the zoning to allow for less intensive data center use adjacent to the Data Center Overlay and across the road from existing housing, with 85 acres as open space designated next to Chris Yung and Lanier Farms. The rezoning puts the Devlin parcel in line with the development pattern that began in 2015.

We can’t unwind the legacy of County officials who fought – and continue to fight – against meeting the housing needs of Prince William County. From data centers where neighborhoods and commerce should be to the skyrocketing cost of living, we are all living with the realities of decades of anti-housing policies. However, we can and must make better choices moving forward. It is time to start building a new legacy. 

Ultimately, anti-housing policies are anti-people policies. I can’t think of a case that illustrates this more clearly than the cynical dismantling of Stone Haven. I, for one, will not look away from the lessons of this cautionary tale. I am ready to explore solutions that better balance the needs for housing and supportive infrastructure while preserving open spaces. Additionally, I look forward to strengthening our commercial tax base while better managing the proliferation of the data center industry in Prince William County. I hope the public remains engaged in these vital community conversations in the months ahead.