Recall effort for President Ann Wheeler underway on data centers

Ann Wheeler is accused of using her position to financially benefit from the development of data centers in Prince William County.

GAINESVILLE, Va. — Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairwoman Ann Wheeler is being slammed by residents and a conservation group.

The Coalition to Protect Prince William County started a petition to call her back after financial records leaked to the county revealed she had invested tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in data center-related technology companies.

The Commonwealth Attorney’s Chief of Staff, Amy Ashworth, said the office was “looking into the matter”.

The expansion of data centers in the county’s technology corridor and land use in the “rural crescent” have been an ongoing controversy. Many locals have been voicing concerns for months specifically about the Prince William Gateway project, which proposes to build data centers near Pageland Lane.

The data centers have attracted great interest from county officials because of the proposed economic gain and revenue that would benefit schools and housing. For supporters who showed up to the meetings, the data centers are a way to bring the county “into the future.”

However, citizens are concerned about the impact on the the environment, including wildlife and the watershedtraffic, noise, and the threat to nearby Manassas Battlefield Park.

The recall effort began after financial records as of 2020, Wheeler has invested in several county technology and data companies. She is accused of lacking transparency and of using her position to financially benefit from the development of data centers despite community opposition.

Statement of economic interest forms showed she had invested in at least seven data center industry stocks from February 2020 to February 2021, each ranging from $5,000 to $250,000. In the most recent filingseveral of the companies include active data centers in the county, including Blackstone, Amazon and JP Morgan Chase.

“She bought this stock after becoming president and after the developments, so you think there’s something wrong, but we don’t have proof,” Roger Yackel told WUSA9.

“You have lost the trust of the people,” a resident said in the public comment section at the meeting. “At the very least, recuse yourself, President Wheeler. You are compromised.

“Everything about it stinks to heaven,” resident Gary O’Brien said at a press conference ahead of the reunion.

Wheeler did not respond to WUSA9’s request for comment.

Earlier this week, a Nokesville resident sent a letter to Ashworth to investigate possible violations and a conflict of interest.

Although the chief of staff told WUSA9 that no further details could be released, an email responding to the letter this week said: “The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office does not investigate criminal cases. This duty is carried out by the appropriate law enforcement agency.Once this investigation is completed,this office reviews the findings and decides what charges, if any, to file.We would also at some point make a decision regarding a possible recusal from our office. I will forward your email in its entirety to the law enforcement agency.”

WUSA9 also tracks other data center developments that have angered neighbors worried about their changing backyards, including the Bristow community where developer Stanley Martin Company has promised to install ‘buffers’ to appease worries.

The company, known for building residential homes, wants to turn a tract of land along Devlin Road in Bristow into 4 million square feet of two-storey data storage facilities.

In one of the most recent meetings, Truett Young and Stanley Martin promised a 100-foot treed buffer between homes and data facilities.

Young said the buildings would be set back to keep them mostly out of sight of the neighborhood.

RELATED: Developer Promises Prince William Co. Neighbors Data Center Buffer

RELATED: Virginia’s Historic Spaces Seek Protection Amid Potential Data Center Addition

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Ramon J. Espinoza