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Data operations considered for Harpers Ferry quarry site

February 29, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A development project proposed for the former Old Standard Quarry near Harpers Ferry, W.Va., continues to change, with project officials now saying they are considering data center operations for the site.

The project would involve "racks of servers" in what would amount to a "very large concrete box," Douglas Carter of Davis Carter Scott Architecture said Thursday at the Jefferson County Commission's weekly meeting.

The site had been considered for a National Park Service museum, but officials said last week that idea is off the drawing board - at least temporarily - and another project official told the commission Thursday that the effort now is a private sector initiative.

Project officials did not go into a lot of detail Thursday about who would use the data center operations.

When Commissioner Rusty Morgan asked how the project is being financed, project officials pointed to Tom Glatzel of Orr Partners, a real estate development firm in Washington, D.C.

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Established in 1988, Orr Partners has evolved into one of the fastest growing, privately owned development firms in the Washington metropolitan area, according to the company's Web site.

Discussions have been ongoing for about a year over ways to develop the old quarry along Millville Road off U.S. 340. A $250 million office development project eyed for the property drew criticism from some county residents and raised fears over how it would affect nearby Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, including being able to see it from the park.

Another development group then proposed a $250 million museum for the site that would be used to store artifacts owned by the National Park Service. That development group, the same one that now is proposing the data center, proposed to build the museum and lease it to the National Park Service.

Last week, Donald Campbell, superintendent of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, said the museum idea proposed by Stonewall Heights LLC has been dropped after Mary A. Bomar, director of the National Park Service, said there currently is not enough money to lease the museum.

Four people, including Glatzel, Carter and Charles Town attorney Andrew Skinner, appeared before the commission Thursday as the data center idea was presented.

Similar to the museum idea, Carter said builders "would literally dig into the hillside" to build the data center operations, then cover it with soil. Only about six or seven people would be needed for the operation, he said.

Carter continued to talk about building a hotel on the quarry property.

Last week, Campbell said the hotel could be used for business associated with the National Park Service or U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which operates a training facility nearby along U.S. 340.

Carter told the commission that that focus of the project "has shifted a little bit" because of funding issues.

Commissioner Greg Corliss expressed concern about the project.

There was talk about changing the land-use classification for the old quarry, and Corliss said he is concerned about a possible rezoning for the land when all of the details of the development are not clear.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park spokesman Dennis Frye, who was at the meeting, said park officials also have been concerned about rezoning of the land. Park officials want to know why the entire quarry site needs to be rezoned when much of it will be left as green space, Frye said.

Otherwise, park officials are excited about the project because it will involve cleaning up old waste areas associated with the quarry, and believe the Stonewall Heights group will be sensitive to protecting the land, Frye said.

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