GREENBELT – The General Services Administration (GSA) has pushed back the release date of draft environmental impact statements for each of the possible sites for the new FBI headquarters, but the project manager for the Greenbelt site said he has no concerns. Last year GSA named Greenbelt as one of the finalists for relocation of […]
GREENBELT – The General Services Administration (GSA) has pushed back the release date of draft environmental impact statements for each of the possible sites for the new FBI headquarters, but the project manager for the Greenbelt site said he has no concerns.
Last year GSA named Greenbelt as one of the finalists for relocation of the new FBI headquarters, along with Landover and Springfield, Va. GSA then put out a request for proposal to build the project and received bids from six teams. The developer which wins the build will receive the rights to the current J. Edgar Hoover building upon completion of the new headquarters.
Before selecting a team and a final site, GSA will release draft statements about the impacts on the environment at each site. Officials had said they expected GSA to release the statements in May, but a recent update to the project’s website indicated the release has been delayed.
“The DEIS is scheduled for release and public comment in Fall 2015,” the website reads.
In a statement, GSA Press Secretary confirmed the delay.
“GSA is planning to release the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in the fall. We want to make sure the analysis included in the document is as thoughtful and thorough as possible so the public and offerors fully understand the potential environmental impact (i.e. transportation, air quality, noise, historic sites) on each of the three sites and how that impact can be properly mitigated,” according to the statement.
Garth Beall, a manager at Renard Development Company, which is overseeing the FBI project in Greenbelt, said he expects the project to go on as planned and does not believe the delay will affect Greenbelt’s chances of getting selected.
Beall said he and his team were already ahead of schedule. He did not expect GSA to delay release of the environmental impact statements into the fall, Beall said, but project deadlines have not changed because GSA’s ultimate deadline for project completion has not changed.
“We essentially have internal deadlines based on (the GSA’s) ultimate deadline. For example, the design period for the WMATA garage is about a year. And we’re probably five months into that. So we’re a bit ahead of schedule,” Beall said. “We wanted the WMATA garage to be fully designed by the time they got the award so we can break ground shortly after.”
If things are backed up in the interim time period, Beall said, it will not have an effect on the project’s overall development. However, if the May 2016 award of the project is pushed back, Beall said development would probably have to slow down.
Once the environmental impact statements—a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act—are released, GSA must allow opportunities for public comment. But GSA said the public comment period will not lead to a delay.
“After the draft EIS is complete, GSA will hold a series of public meetings on the document and allow the public to comment on it for 45 days,” according to the statement. “As of now, this delay is not expected to impact the overall timeline for the project.”
Nine overall areas will be looked at in the environmental study—including all three possible sites as well as the J. Edgar Hoover building. The GSA must review land use, visual aesthetics, social economics, traffic and parking, fiscal impact, environmental impact, cultural conditions, public services, public utilities and hazardous materials, Beall said. Once those things are reviewed the GSA decides what improvements must be made for each site.
Greenbelt must have a fully functioning interchange because of the site’s connection to the Capital Beltway, Beall said.
“That is one of the things we’re working on,” he said.
GSA hires consultants to review these areas of study, Beall said, and they rate the areas from one to six. If an area gets a rating of one, it means the FBI’s impact would be beneficial for the area. If an area gets a six, it means the impact is too negative and cannot be mitigated.
“You don’t want any sixes,” Beall said.
Greenbelt City Manager Mike McLaughlin said the city continues to support Beall’s efforts, and he does not expect the delayed release of environmental impact statements to have an impact on the project.
“From the city’s perspective, it is certainly desirable the GSA makes its schedule because there is a great deal of public interest in it,” McLaughlin said. “The complexity means a great deal of resources are involved and potentially being tied up due to GSA requirements.”
The only economic impact the delay will have on the city is the potential pushback of any positive effects the FBI would bring, McLaughlin said. The FBI would have an “enormous impact” on the city and the county, he said.
Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan said the city continues to prepare for the FBI to come to Greenbelt.
“The GSA has such a formal process for the way they choose the site,” Jordan said. “The expectation was that (the EIS) would be coming out really soon. But like I said, the city doesn’t really have any control over the process.”
According to the National Environmental Policy Act, once the 45-day public comment period ends GSA will have to review all of the comments and prepare responses. Then, GSA must release a final environmental impact statement and conduct another 30-day review period. At that time, GSA may then publish a record of decision and move forward with awarding a contract.