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Council Discusses GSA Report on FBI’s Possible Site at Greenbelt

At last night’s Council meting, the City Council discussed GSA’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) about the Greenbelt site as the possible headquarter. The Council formed a working subcommittee to study the report further. Please see below the initial report staff prepared about EIS report.

The U. S. General Services Administration (GSA) released a DEIS and Notice of Public Hearings for the FBI Headquarters Consolidation. The three sites under consideration are located in Springfield (Franconia warehouse complex), Greenbelt (Metro Station area) and Landover (former Landover Mall) and public hearings have been scheduled in the vicinity of each site.

The Greenbelt site public hearing will be held on December 8, 2015 from 6:00 to 8:30p.m. at the Greenbelt Branch Library. Written public comments on the DEIS must be postmarked no later than January 6, 2016. The full report may be viewed at http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/192223. A preferred alternative is not identified in the DE IS but will be in the final EIS. The GSA is also engaged in a concurrent process of identifying potential development teams

The FBI Consolidation involves both the acquisition of a new permanent location for the FBI Headquarters and the exchange of the current FBI Headquarters located in the J. Edgar Hoover (JEH) building in Washington D.C. Conceptual site plans have been developed for each site with a security zone to comply with Level 5 security requirements. The building program calls for construction of a campus-like facility for 11 ,400 workers that includes the following components:

  • Main Building or a series of buildings 2,349,000 GSF
  • Visitor Center 60,000 GSF
  • Truck Inspection Facility 9.000 GSF
  • Utilities and Infrastructure up to 128,000 GSF
  • Parking Structures (1or more) 3,600-7,300 spaces
  • Visitor Parking Lot 135-323 spaces

During the scoping phase of the EIS process, the city provided comments to the GSA, The DEIS evaluates the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the project for each site alternative and the indirect impacts of the future development at JEH. It also evaluates a no-action alternative where the FBI does not relocate or consolidate operations. This alternative is a baseline for comparative purposes that look at the consequences of continuing to operate under current conditions versus the proposed project. The federal government is required to “restore and enhance the quality of the human environment and avoid or minimize any possible adverse effects of their actions on the quality of the human environment.” The report covers 38 different resource topics and indicates whether there will be no measurable impact, adverse impact, major adverse impact or beneficial impact.

This review will focus on the Greenbelt site alternative and the resource topics where significant or major adverse impacts were identified as well as where adverse impacts were found that require mitigation. A determination of significance under NEPA requires consideration of both the context and intensity of an impact. For the no-action alternative, the Greenbelt site assumes that the north core of Greenbelt Station will be built out based on previous approvals that enable up to 800 residences, 1.4 million GSF of retail, 1.86 million GSF of office space and two hotels with 550 rooms. The federal regulations do not allow for analysis of proposed improvements that have not been entitled under local land use laws therefore proposed mixed-use development by Renard to the west of the FBI site is not considered in the DEIS.

Visual Resources
Future development, whether it is from Greenbelt Station north core approvals or the proposed project, will result in densities and building heights significantly higher than existing surrounding development which is less than three stories. This would result in direct, long-term, major adverse impacts related to the aesthetics of the area. The DE IS assumes a maximum building height for the FBI main building of 17 stories (225 feet) that would alter the existing skyline. Tree line buffers are expected to lessen the view from the Hollywood neighborhood however a lighting study performed indicates that a long-term adverse effect from on-site lighting may be expected. A shadow analysis
performed shows impact on adjacent proposed mixed-use development to the west but no impact to Hollywood.

Comment: The approved Greenbelt Metro Area and MD 193 Corridor Plan calls for building heights within 250 feet of the Metro Green Line to be 4-8 stories and for the rest of the north core to range from 4-12 stories. The plan also acknowledges that taller buildings may be appropriate or necessary to accommodate a GSA campus or signature building. The city is on record opposing building heights over 12 stories in the north core. Rather than a single 17 story building, the GSA should design more than one building and provide cut-off lighting to minimize this impact.

Public Transit
While no measurable impacts to Metrorail capacity were found, Metrobus operations are expected to experience indirect, long-term major adverse impacts under the no-action alternative and direct, long-term, major adverse impacts under the proposed project.

While no capacity issues were found on individual routes, bus operation delays are anticipated along Edmondson Road. During construction, lane closures and construction vehicles are also expected to cause short-term impacts. Comment: The half-mile study area excludes most city routes. Other buses serving the area such as The Bus and Shuttle UM were also excluded.

Traffic
The traffic analysis in the DEIS relied on information obtained from the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) under the Greenbelt Site Transportation Agreement. This agreement established the study area, trip generation rates, trip distribution, modal split and analysis methods. Major indirect and long-term adverse impacts were found under the no-action alternative and direct, long-term major adverse impacts were found under the proposed project. In addition, there would be direct short-term adverse impacts during construction. For the no-action option, the corridor that would experience these impacts is Edmonston Road between Powder Mill Road and Cherrywood Lane in the pm peak hours. Intersections impacted are Edmonston Road and Sunnyside Avenue during the am peak hour and Cherrywood Lane and Ivy Lane during both peak hours. For the build condition, the FBI is forecasted to generate 1,025 inbound vehicle trips and 75 outbound trips during the am peak hour and 49 inbound and 966 outbound during the pm peak hour. An analysis of signalized intersections shows that Edmonston Road and Sunnyside Avenue and Edmonston Road and Powder Mill Road would operate with overall unacceptable conditions during the pm peak hour.

Comment:  Based on the site trip distribution showing the majority of traffic (78%) generated from 1-95/495 north and south of the site, the study area does not address local roadways or intersections in College Park. Traffic on the interstate network obviously impacts College Park and the DEIS relies on SHA to determine the solutions for the failing interstate ramps between Route 1 and Baltimore Washington Parkway. A fatal flaw in the traffic analysis may be the allocation of 47.33% of all new trips created to metro or commuter rail trips. This is a very high number that does not seem to be validated by experience especially at an end station.

Natural Gas
Washington Gas is the sole natural gas purveyor serving the region and there is currently no service on site. One of the closest mains is a 4-inch pipe on Lackawanna Street. For the proposed project, there would be direct, short-term, major adverse impacts due to the need to extend transmission pressure service to the site from an existing source. It is anticipated that this would require crossing 1-495. Comment: There is likely to be a long-term indirect benefit of increased service to current and future customers. College Park is not likely to be negatively impacted.

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