Megan Cloherty, wtop.com
WASHINGTON – A Fairfax County representative is calling foul over a Metro-endorsed proposal he says gives Prince George’s County the edge in an ongoing bid to house the FBI’s new headquarters.
“The minute Metro signs onto a development proposal, there’s automatically a bias in how it’s reviewed,” says Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay.
McKay takes issue with WMATA-owned land near the Greenbelt station being considered as a possible site for the new intelligence headquarters. Metro’s real estate committee voted Thursday to allow its developer of that land to work with Prince George’s County on a bid.
The competition to land the FBI’s relocation project started last year when the General Services Administration announced the agency was leaving the District’s dilapidated J. Edgar Hoover building. The new headquarters needs to be near a Metro site, which is why McKay says the transit agency shouldn’t insert itself into the debate.
“We are completely agnostic when it comes to where the FBI ends up and which site gets selected,” says Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.
The competition is fierce over what could be one of the last big agency moves from Washington.
“I think the whole reason why Metro has been asked to join this application is because the folks in Maryland were concerned that Virginia had better sites,” McKay said.
“The fact they had to go to this extent shows that they have some short comings in their own application.”
Prince George’s County officials took exception to that statement, responding that their bid is strong on its own.
“Not only do we have a significant portion of federal employees, roughly 27 percent of the region’s federal workforce live in Prince George’s County. Also, considering the amount of develop-able land especially near Metro stations, I don’t think there’s another jurisdiction that can match that available land, says Aubrey Thagard, the county’s assistant deputy chief operating officer for economic development and public infrastructure.
McKay, who represented Virginia on Metro’s board for four years, wrote a letter to the transit agency’s real estate committee expressing his concerns about their involvement in Prince George’s County’s likely bid.
The board voted Thursday to allow the developer, Renard Development Co. LLC, the ability to assign its development rights to another party. In this case, Renard is talking about giving its rights to Prince George’s County. However, the county has not yet been named in the bid.
“It’s very high stakes and for WMATA to put themselves right smack dab in the middle of this economic development competition in the region, I think spells trouble in the long run for Metro in the partnership it has had with its funding partners,” McKay says.
Metro has had an agreement with the developer of the 78-acre plot since 2000. Renard has always had the option in its contract with Metro to assign rights to another party, as long as the transit agency approves it, Stessel says.
“We really do not pick sides when it comes to this stuff. This is something that was provided for under a more than a decade old agreement with the developer. The developer is simply exercising something that they’re permitted to do under their existing agreement,” says Stessel.
The measure approved Thursday morning by Metro’s real estate committee extends the deadline from March 2014 until December 2014 to give Renard enough time to submit a bid for the FBI’s new headquarters, reports the Washington Business Journal.
The move is not an expression of support for one county in particular, rather Metro is allowing the developer to exercise a right in their contract, Stessel says.
“Our support of Prince George’s County in this matter is non-exclusive. We’ll cooperate with any jurisdiction that needs this type of assistance from us. The fact is, the sites under consideration might not need it or might not be on Metro property that is under a development agreement,” Stessel says.
McKay contends that Metro’s board should abandon the project and can easily let the contract expire.
“It would not be that difficult for the WMATA board in light of the regional competition ongoing to land the FBI to not make this extension. There’s no reason why they should have to do it,” McKay says.
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