221 N. Commerce Avenue | Front Royal VA 22630
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal.
- Every Wednesday evening
- Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m.
- Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m.
- Food and refreshments available
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Virginia is Banking on Data Centers, But Some Say Growth Should Be More Deliberate
221 N. Commerce Avenue | Front Royal VA 22630
RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia is home to the largest data center market in the world, but citizens and lawmakers have urged leaders to temper the onslaught of development and consider the impact.
Data centers have brought hundreds of millions in tax revenue and thousands of jobs to Northern Virginia and, increasingly, other areas of the state. However, among environmental groups, there is mounting concern that the industry’s rapid growth might offset climate goals laid out in past legislation.
Data centers are physical locations that power online activity “in the cloud,” according to the Data Center Coalition. According to the group’s president, Josh Levi, the centers support online activities that individuals, governments, organizations, and businesses of all sizes do every day.
The growth of the industry shows no signs of slowing. Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced a deal with Amazon Web Services in January to establish multiple data center campuses across the state. The company plans to invest $35 billion in Virginia by 2040.
Amazon Web Services filed in September to develop two campuses in Louisa County, including a seven-building data center campus, Lake Anna Technology Campus. The campus would occupy almost 2 million square feet of Lousia County’s land, including about an acre of wetland.
“These areas offer robust utility infrastructure, lower costs, great livability, and highly educated workforces and will benefit from the associated economic development and increased tax base, assisting the schools and providing services to the community,” Youngkin stated about the partnership with Amazon Web Services.
The state also developed a new incentive program to help clinch the deal. According to the recently passed budget, An amount not exceeding $140 million in grant money will go toward the company and end no later than 2044. The grants help with infrastructure improvements, workforce development, and other project-related costs. The grant awards $8,642 for each new full-time job and $3,364 for each $1 million capital investment made the year before.
Money and jobs
According to Levi, the two primary benefits of data centers are local revenue and job creation.
A Northern Virginia Technology Council report found that data centers provided approximately 5,500 operational and over 10,000 construction and manufacturing jobs in 2021. The report estimated that data centers were “directly and indirectly” responsible for generating $174 million in state tax revenue and just over $1 billion in local tax revenue around the state.
To date, every data center proposal in Virginia has been approved, according to Wyatt Gordon, senior policy and campaigns manager of land use and transportation with the Virginia Conservation Network.
According to Gordon, the high concentration of data centers in the state is a significant problem.
“If this is going to support global internet traffic, they need to be across the globe instead of just within one region of one state,” Gordon said.
Gordon said there is no future without data use, but the impacts of data centers need to be studied closely.
“I think our immediate concern is just, how are we making sure that the impacts of these data centers as they’re coming here are really being negotiated in a way that makes sense for Virginia,” Gordon said.
Del. Danica Roem, D-Manassas, and Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax, worked with the Virginia Conservation Network on a bill this past session to have the Department of Energy study the impacts of data center development on Virginia’s environment and climate goals. The bill failed.
“It’s the biggest corporations in the entire world on one side, and then you have Virginia residents and a ragtag group of environmental folks on the other,” Gordon said. “So, I think you know who won.”
According to Gordon, data centers have three primary impacts on the environment: the space they take up, the groundwater demand for cooling, and their energy use.
According to Gordon, the facilities set to come out of Youngkin’s Amazon deal alone will be the size of 151 Walmart stores.
“That is massive amounts of land that are currently forests, farmland, wetlands, and are going to be bulldozed and converted into gigantic boxes hosting servers,” Gordon said.
Overall, Virginia's energy use has decreased due to increased energy efficiency, according to Gordon. However, according to a report prepared for the Virginia Department of Energy, data centers are a growing sector of electricity demand in Virginia.
According to the Energy Transition Initiative, data center electric sales will increase by 152% in the next decade, while other sectors will remain mostly the same. The forecast does not include projected electricity demand from electric vehicles.
The overall increase in Virginia electricity sales is forecasted to be 32% over 10 years and accounts for increased energy efficiency.
Dominion Energy filed an Integrated Resource Plan this year that anticipates a higher demand for electricity from data centers than originally planned. According to Gordon, Dominion recently filed permits for natural gas and coal power plants to meet data center energy demands.
According to Gordon, this contrasts the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which mandates that the state’s two largest utility providers, Dominion Energy and American Electric Power, produce 100% renewable electricity by 2045 and 2050, respectively.
“Despite being the only Southern state to pass such a huge climate law … that could all collapse because data centers are putting such a demand for power that there’s no way to supply them in a timely manner without relying upon dirty energy,” Gordon said.
Dominion Energy is “writing checks that Virginians can’t cash,” according to Julie Bolthouse, director of land use at the Piedmont Environmental Council. The group has looked at data center development in its service region since 2017.
Virginia is compromising its conservation and climate goals to meet in-service dates, with costs of development falling on utility ratepayers, according to Bolthouse.
“We have to, now, meet that in-service date that they committed to, and we have to build out this infrastructure with a rate schedule that’s unfair to us because we’re sitting here paying for all of this when it’s benefitting this one industry,” Bolthouse said.
A Dominion Energy representative did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
According to Bolthouse, the utility and data centers negotiate electricity contracts together and then determine an in-service date when the utility will begin providing power.
“The industry needs to wait for us to be able to provide that power in a sustainable manner,” Bolthouse said.
Powering Virginia’s data centers with renewable energy is a realistic goal “over time,” according to Levi. Amazon Web Services, for example, plans to fund 18 solar farms in Virginia that would provide enough energy to power 276,000 homes by 2025.
Though companies can pursue clean energy in many ways, Levi said the challenge is how fast they can provide it.
“I think that’s where some of the hand-wringing around this issue is really coming from,” Levi said.
According to Kyle Hart, the Mid-Atlantic program manager at the National Parks Conservation Association, Prince William Digital Gateway is the “epitome” of everything the data center industry is doing wrong.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today, in terms of broad calls for industry-wide reform, if this terrible proposal hadn’t existed and had never sort of marched forward under a Democratic board majority for the past two years,” Hart said.
The group became involved in the conversation because of data center projects like Prince William Digital Gateway, which would share a border with Manassas National Battlefield Park, according to Hart.
Most recently, the Prince William County Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of all three rezoning applications involved in the Digital Gateway project. The debate moves next to the board of supervisors for a vote.
Hart and Bolthouse offered policy suggestions in a paper that provides an overview of data center development from a land use perspective. They suggested a study on the various impacts of development, a grid impact statement by the State Corporation Commission for all new data center-related power demand requests, and a framework for a regional review board to evaluate these large project proposals.
The data center proliferation in Virginia has outpaced any other state, which ultimately left Hart and Bolthouse without much framework to work off, Hart said. The suggestions are based on what they would want to see.
Elena Schlossberg is executive director for the Coalition to Protect Prince William County, a grassroots effort at the forefront of the resistance against the Digital Gateway. Schlossberg encouraged people to educate themselves on why they should care about the issue.
“You can make a difference by telling your neighbors,” Schlossberg said. “You can make a difference by getting on a bus and lobbying your state legislators that there needs to be some real oversight for an industry that is, up until this point, pretty unregulated.”
The data center debate is apolitical, according to Schlossberg.
“Money knows no ideological boundary, nor does doing the right thing,” Schlossberg said.
By Emily Richardson
Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University's Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.
Virginia Colleges Launch Innovative Program to Address Teacher Shortage
221 N. Commerce Avenue | Front Royal VA 22630
Lab Schools to Train High School Students as Future Educators.
Virginia is taking a significant step towards addressing its teacher shortage with the launch of a groundbreaking partnership between Laurel Ridge Community College, Germanna Community College, and James Madison University. This initiative, part of the state’s broader College Partnership Laboratory Fund, is not just a solution to a critical issue but a beacon of hope for future educators.
The Virginia General Assembly established the College Partnership Laboratory Fund in 2022, committing $100 million to this cause. Following the success of the first lab school associated with Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Board of Education recently approved two more lab schools, including the Future Educators Academy.
Dr. Kim Blosser, President of Laurel Ridge, expressed excitement about collaborating with Germanna to operate the lab school at the Middletown and Fauquier campuses. “Our public school divisions, especially rural areas, face acute teacher shortages. This program is a step towards addressing that need, focusing on educating high school students who will eventually serve their local communities,” said Dr. Blosser.
The Future Educators Academy is a unique approach designed to bridge the gap in the teaching workforce. Students enrolled in this program will simultaneously work towards an associate degree and a high school advanced studies diploma. Moreover, they will receive guaranteed admission into JMU’s College of Education, potentially earning their bachelor’s degree in education within two years.
This accelerated and rigorous program is inclusive, targeting all students with a passion for teaching, including at-risk groups and those who have experienced pandemic-related learning setbacks. Governor Glenn Youngkin, who prioritizes establishing lab schools, highlights the program’s accessibility and commitment to educational recovery.
Dr. Janet Gullickson, president of Germanna, explained the vision behind the Future Educators Academy. “Our goal is to create a no-cost, accelerated path for students to fill teaching positions quickly. The idea is to nurture our K-12 teachers who will contribute to their home communities,” she stated.
The initiative is timely, considering the current challenges in the education sector. It offers a sustainable solution by empowering young aspirants to step into the teaching profession equipped with early training and a sense of community responsibility.
Germanna’s lab school students will begin in fall 2023, while Laurel Ridge will welcome its first cohort in fall 2025. This strategic timeline ensures a steady flow of trained educators into Virginia’s school system in the coming years.
The Future Educators Academy is a testament to Virginia’s commitment to resolving the immediate teacher shortage and fostering a new generation of educators equipped to face the challenges of modern education.
State Representation Tilts Toward Diversity With Historic Numbers
221 N. Commerce Avenue | Front Royal VA 22630
RICHMOND, Va. — The votes are counted, the committees are set, and even the first bills are filed as Virginia’s General Assembly prepares to gavel in early next year. It’s a new slate of legislators more representative of the state’s citizens.
Major gains for Black History
Even in America’s longest-serving state legislature, many firsts are still coming with this next class.
The House and Senate will have Black leadership for the first time when it convenes on Jan. 10.
Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, will be Virginia’s first Black House Speaker. Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears has been the presiding officer in the Senate since 2022. She was the first Black woman elected to a statewide office in Virginia and the second woman.
Virginia’s Black community makes up just under 21% of the state’s population, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. Legislative representation will be slightly higher at just under 23%.
Voters elected 32 Black legislators out of 140 seats: 25 delegates and seven senators. All but one is a Democrat. The total includes two delegates who identify as more than one race.
Virginia was once the “cradle of the Confederacy,” but that time is over, Scott said.
“Virginians are ready to move on,” Scott said. “They’re not looking at race, they’re looking at who’s the best candidate.”
Scott added that his nomination as speaker is a great milestone for Black people all across the state, and they “can be proud of this day.”
Jatia Wrighten is an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University. She conducts research on Black women, state legislatures, and leadership.
“It is absolutely fascinating to think about a state that was one of the most exclusionary in the South,” Wrighten said during a post-election event organized by the Virginia Public Access Project. “And yet we have a state legislature that is one of the most diverse in the entire country.”
Black women representation
The 20 Black women who won the election represent a historic number. This is a little over 14% of the General Assembly.
This comes after a long history of exclusion, according to Wrighten.
“They’ve had to work outside of these institutions in order to gain equal access to political, social, and even economic opportunities,” Wrighten said.
Black women are the voter block that helps Democrats win, she said. Black women have impacted elections throughout the South, in presidential and state races.
“Black women have always been here,” Wrighten said. “It’s just the case that now Virginia actually allows Black women to actively participate.”
Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, in reference to a Martin Luther King Jr. quote, stated in an email that this new diversity is “neither automatic nor inevitable” — it was possible due to “tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
“There are many who worked to make this day happen, and the ancestors are proud of those who are making a difference in our communities,” Locke stated.
Increased diversity and inclusion
According to Wrighten, research shows people feel better served when their legislators look like them.
“For the very diverse demographics that exist in the state of Virginia, what you should expect are feelings of satisfaction with elected members,” Wrighten said. “Especially as the diversity actually represents the population in this state.”
The number of female representatives stayed the same as last year, although a decade ago, there were only 25 in the General Assembly. Women account for a third of state representation, although they are more than half of the state’s population.
A total of 48 female legislators will represent the state. Democrats elected 38. Republicans elected 10.
For the first time in at least recent history, the number of white representatives will dip below 100.
According to a Virginia legislative website, about 100 African-American men served in the General Assembly between 1869 and 1890. The backlash to gains made during Reconstruction led to changes to the state constitution in 1902. Black citizens were disenfranchised as a result, and representation was limited.
- Douglas Wilder, in 1969, was the first Black representative elected to the Virginia Senate since Reconstruction. After a term as lieutenant governor, he became the first Black governor in the U.S.
All races will see gains in representation this upcoming session, most at historic numbers.
- Almost a third of the upcoming state legislature will be people of color.
- Eight Asian American legislators won their respective races, half were incumbents. Five will serve as delegates, three as senators. The total includes two delegates who identify as more than one race.
- Four Latino legislators will serve in the House. Two nonincumbent Latino candidates won their respective races.
- Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, has served since 2014 and is the legislature’s only Palestinian American.
Virginia will welcome its first Iranian American legislator. Delegate-elect Atoosa Reaser from Loudoun County won House District 27.
Reaser’s family fled Iran during a revolution. She stated that recent events propelled her to run for office to ensure Virginians have the “same freedom and opportunity that brought her family to America in the first place.”
“Sadly, women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and others are seeing their rights taken away,” Reaser stated.
At least three Muslim legislators were elected. Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Richmond, was the first Muslim legislator elected to the state Senate in 2019. That representation grew by one this election.
The LGBTQ+ community also made gains.
All nine Democratic candidates won and were endorsed by the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, a national organization that helps elect candidates. Two will serve in the Virginia Senate, and seven in the House.
Just under 4% of adults in Virginia are estimated to be LGBTQ+, according to the Williams Institute.
When Democrats held a majority in the General Assembly for two years, they ushered in several protections for LGBTQ+ citizens, including the Virginia Values Act that extended nondiscrimination laws to protect LGBTQ citizens better.
A constitutional amendment to repeal the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, though trumped by federal law, failed to pass its required second time when Republicans gained control in the House in 2022.
Virginia’s LGBTQ+ community has often been at odds with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s updated model policies regarding transgender students in schools. These policies saw immense backlash from students, parents, and LGBTQ+ advocates — although many parents also supported the policies.
Advocates also criticized Youngkin’s administration for its quiet removal of the Resources for LGBTQ Youth page on the state department health website after an inquiry from a right-leaning media outlet.
“The legislature that takes office in January will look a lot more like Virginia than previous legislatures,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington.
Diversity in the Virginia Republican party does not match the Democrats, though that isn’t for a lack of recent commitment, according to Farnsworth. Republicans nominated the most diverse executive branch in history two years ago, with the first Black lieutenant governor and a Hispanic attorney general.
“The Republican Party nominated a very diverse slate of candidates, but many of them were running in places where Democratic candidates had a huge advantage,” Farnsworth said.
Diverse, but still mostly divided
According to Wrighten, despite the steep learning curve that comes with the job, there is also an opportunity for change and new ideas.
“I think when you have all new freshmen legislators, I think we’re going to see some of these exciting parts of democracy actually come to realization,” Wrighten said.
Though more diverse, Virginia’s government remains mostly divided. Democrats have control, but with a Republican governor who holds a veto pen. They do not have the supermajority needed to overturn his vetoes.
Youngkin told reporters the day after the election that he was disappointed with the results but expressed optimism about working with what he described as a “pretty bipartisan-looking” General Assembly. He said legislators need to be dedicated to cooperation.
Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico, a school teacher, said he is working with Youngkin on issues such as testing reform to help improve the quality of education for Virginia’s children. VanValkenburg will move to the Senate in January.
“I’m hopeful we can take the next step and get that testing reform put into law, and we can do right by our kids,” VanValkenburg said.
The issue of education rallied voters on both sides this year, according to Farnsworth.
“Polls show both Republican voters and Democrat voters were energized by education concerns,” Farnsworth said.
There are other opportunities for the parties to work together in a limited capacity, including education, mental health, and economic development, according to Farnsworth.
Incoming House Speaker Scott emphasized there is a chance for Youngkin to work with House Democrats.
“I think there are opportunities to work with the governor to continue to do the things that make it easier for everyday working-class Virginians to make a decent living,” Scott said.
By Vali Jamal
Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.
Bittersweet Town Council Meeting Celebrates Gains While Acknowledging Losses to the Community
221 N. Commerce Avenue | Front Royal VA 22630
On Monday, November 27, at 7 p.m. in the Warren County Government Center, the Front Royal Town Council held a regular meeting wherein they heard reports from council members as well as the town manager.
The meeting was brief, lasting only thirty minutes, but in that time, Mayor Lori Cockrell recognized several individuals for outstanding service. She also asked all in attendance to remember in their prayers people this community has recently lost, including the passing of Arthur Maddox of Maddox Funeral Home. Serving that evening in his new capacity as councilman was Glenn Wood, who was warmly welcomed by council.
In his report, Town Manager Joe Waltz conveyed that water conservation is no longer needed for the town due to recent rainfall. “Due to the rain we had last week before the holiday,” he explained, “the river has risen to a level that we no longer need water conservation efforts.” He added, “I will caution the community that we are still in a drought condition,” if rain is not forecasted in the future, “we could conceivably be back to mandatory water conservation.” Waltz also reminded the community of the upcoming “Christmas on Main” event on Saturday, December 2, with festivities starting at noon and the town’s Christmas Parade starting at 4 p.m., followed by the lighting of the Christmas tree around 6 p.m. in the downtown Village Commons park area after the parade.
Councilwoman Morris commented on the current disposition of the Afton Inn project, which was supposed to be completed in 2023 but, to this date, has made no visible progress. Council had expected to hear a report at their last work session from investor Alan J. Omar, who is involved in the development of Afton Inn, but that report has not materialized. Mayor Cockrell emphasized that she is still working hard to facilitate that report as soon as possible. Morris also congratulated Councilwoman DeDomenico-Payne on her November 7 victory at the polls wherein she continues as a member of the Town Council. Morris also welcomed Wood warmly.
Councilman Bruce Rappaport reflected on his lifelong friendship with Arthur Maddox, which dates as far back in his memory as the time when he was only eight years old, attending the cinema with his friend Arthur to see movies like The Great Escape. “He was a real gem,” Rappaport said, “one of the finest individuals I’ve ever met.” Rappaport also highlighted the good news that VDOT has granted roughly $2.6 million to the Town for road-related improvements and maintenance in the 2024 fiscal year. That announcement of VDOT’s road funding was followed by Consent Agenda action related to the acceptance of those funds, as well as approval of Resolution in support of applying for additional funding for Highway Safety Program improvements.
After passing the seven-item Consent Agenda, council went into closed session to discuss personnel issues as well as HEPTAD litigation against the Town.
Embrace the Chill: Winter Wonders for Active Seniors
221 N. Commerce Avenue | Front Royal VA 22630
Seven Invigorating Winter Activities to Keep Seniors Spry and Spirited.
The winter season, often dreaded for its biting cold, can actually be a wonderland of activity for seniors seeking to stay active and uplifted. With the right layers and a dash of daring, the frosty months offer unique opportunities to invigorate body and mind.
The great outdoors doesn’t become any less great when it’s blanketed in snow; in fact, it may just be the white canvas needed for seniors to paint their winter adventures. Here are seven activities tailored for seniors to enjoy the colder climes safely:
- Walking is the simplest pleasure, but in the crisp winter air, it becomes an observant stroll through quiet streets or a park’s peaceful paths, with the added benefit of maintaining cardiovascular health.
- Snowshoeing is not just for the hardy; it’s a pastime that brings you into the heart of nature’s quiet. Modern snowshoes are more accessible and lightweight, perfect for those keen to step out beyond the beaten path.
- Cross-country skiing is a celebration of endurance and grace, offering a full-body workout that is as gentle as it is effective, keeping the heart healthy and muscles engaged.
- For the nature aficionados, winter’s wildlife is a spectacle unto itself. With the leaves gone, birds and animals grace the landscape, revealing the cycle of life amidst the stillness.
- Photography can transform the everyday grandparent into an artist, capturing the stark beauty of winter’s touch. Whether it’s the grandkids’ snowball fight or the intricate frost patterns on a window, the world is a gallery awaiting your lens.
- Snow sculpting can rekindle the creative flame as snowmen and icy fortresses rise from the ground up. It’s a joyful activity that proves age is but a number when it comes to imagination.
- And for those who yearn for a dash of adventure, dog sledding offers an exhilarating connection with nature and the loyalty of man’s best friend, wrapped up in one memorable, snowy jaunt.
These seven winter activities are more than pastimes; they are invitations to embrace the season’s beauty and challenge its chill. Seniors can find joy, health, and a zest for life amidst the snowflakes and ice. So, bundle up, step out, and let winter’s playground rejuvenate your spirit.
Senior’s Guide to Picking the Perfect Winter Coat
221 N. Commerce Avenue | Front Royal VA 22630
Stay Warm and Stylish: Key Points to Remember.
When the cold winter winds start to blow, a dependable and comfortable winter coat becomes indispensable. For our senior community members, choosing the right winter coat can be a functional necessity and a style statement. If you’re hunting for that perfect coat, here’s a detailed guide to ensure you make the best choice.
Factors to Focus On
- Length Matters: A coat’s length can play a significant role in how warm you’ll stay. If you are strolling around the neighborhood or perhaps waiting for public transport, a coat extending to cover your thighs can offer much-needed warmth. Yet, freedom of movement is key. Ensure that while the coat might be long, it doesn’t become an obstacle when you move.
- Stay Insulated: Lightweight down insulation is akin to being wrapped in a cozy blanket. Especially useful for those who feel the cold more intensely. If you’re the active type, indulging in winter sports or activities, synthetic insulation can be a better bet. It’s breathable and retains its warming properties even if it gets damp.
- User-Friendly Closures: Not all zippers are made equal. Invest in a coat with a sturdy zipper that can withstand the test of time. For those who find smaller zippers fiddly, ensure the zipper handles are adequately sized for easy grip.
- The Mighty Hood: It’s not just about having a hood; it’s about having one that works. Drawstrings can help the hood stay put even in gusty conditions. And if snowy winters are your norm, a fur trim not only adds a touch of luxury but also proves practical against falling snow.
- Collars that Care: Your coat’s collar isn’t just a style statement. It’s a shield against cold drafts. Ensure it snugly covers your neck, offering warmth.
- Sensible Sleeves: Sleeves that come with an adjustable wristband can be a boon. They can be tightened to keep the cold air out, ensuring you stay warmer for longer.
- Practical Pockets: Pockets aren’t just about storage. A coat with adequately sized, durable pockets can be a place to warm your hands, store essentials like keys, or even a spot for your smartphone.
Coat Hunting Done Right
Equipped with these pointers, your winter coat shopping can be a breezy affair. Ensure you prioritize your needs, whether mobility, warmth, or functionality, and you’ll find a coat that’s not just a garment but a winter companion.