In winning the FBI, Loudoun County could lose $6M a year

Loudoun County could wind up losing $6 million a year if it is unfortunate enough to win one of the region’s most highly sought-after federal agencies.

That’s one scenario laid out by the Loudoun economic development department as the county seeks to make its case that the FBI should relocate to within its borders. The county released a briefing report Wednesday estimating that the FBI could wind up taking up to 85 acres of land off Loudoun’s tax base that might otherwise be turned into a lucrative, privately developed commercial project. That’s because Loudoun can’t charge the federal government property taxes, while it could collect from a private developer.

“The potential opportunity cost, in terms of forgone revenue, could be as much as $6M per year if the above mentioned acreage is removed from potential future taxable use,” the briefing memo stated. The FBI could wind up selecting a site in Loudoun that is owned by the federal government, which would lessen the economic loss.

The assessment was prepared for the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, which met during an economic development committee Wednesday evening to discuss Loudoun’s chances and strategy for luring the nation’s leading law enforcement agency from its longtime home at 935 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in the District.

The county, just like neighboring Fairfax County, wants the FBI to select a site within its borders for a new headquarters. But the county wants to make sure the agency selects the right site, that being one that’s already owned by the federal government and not being assessed property taxes.

Supervisor Ralph Buona, R-Ashburn, said ultimately the selection will come down to the right property and the right development proposal, not how hard local governments like Loudoun lobby the federal government. But he said the county has the chance to lay the backdrop by highlighting Loudoun’s attributes.

“The developers will put in a response that is germane to their property, but someone has to go in and preach the Loudoun story,” Buona was quoted in Leesburg Today as having said. “The county presentation would point out ‘All the discriminators that brings Loudoun to the table.’”

Local governments across the Washington region have been scrambling and posturing for months to make a case that their turf should be home to the FBI if the agency decides to relocate from its aging longtime home in the District. The General Services Administration issued a request for information in December seeking ideas for where a new headquarters could be built, how much it would cost and raising the prospect of a land swap for the FBI’s current home at the J. Edgar Hoover building in D.C.

The solicitation the FBI issued in December is just seeking information, not a binding proposal, and the county’s briefing report raised questions about how much information the FBI and GSA will gather as part of the process. Ideas are due in early March, but the briefing memo said respondents are not likely to reveal their best ideas until the GSA issues a more formal and potentially binding request for proposals. The report also noted there is likely to be a gap under the land-swap scenario and that the federal government will need to put up more money for a new headquarters than the FBI’s current site is worth. Read more about that in tomorrow’s print edition of the Washington Business Journal.

The FBI is seeking between 40 and 55 acres of land for a new headquarters and needs about 2.1 million square feet of office space. The county believes there are a number of viable options, including one site owned by the United States Postal Service along Route 606, according to the Times. Some of those sites are privately owned, including the One Loudoun site which is also slated to become home to the minor league baseball Loudoun Hounds.

The county, and its competitors, aren’t as much interested in the FBI itself as the commercial activity that would spring up around it. The headquarters is expected to draw other companies that do business with the FBI and related private developments such as new homes, offices, shops and restaurants that would generate tax revenue.

Read the full story from the Washington Business Journal.

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