Three area sites considered for new FBI center

The number of potential sites for a new $98 million FBI records facility in Frederick County has grown to three.

The U.S. General Services Administration intends to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement study to look at potential impacts — natural, cultural and social environment —  from the proposed construction of a new FBI Central Records Complex, GSA spokeswoman Gina Blyther Gilliam stated in an email Friday. The facility will consolidate records storage for the FBI in a National Archives and Records Administration compliant facility.

The GSA will study the following sites:

  • A 60-acre parcel, owned by Arcadia Communities, at 2117 Millwood Pike, east of Winchester
  • A 90-acre parcel, owned by the Blackburn Limited Partnership, off Apple Valley Road and near Va. 37, west of Winchester
  • A 50-acre parcel, in the Whitehall Commerce Center off Rest Church Road/Woodbine Road near U.S. 11 in Clear Brook, north of Winchester

The GSA is inviting the public to submit comments on the proposed project. The 30-day public scoping period will begin Tuesday when the notice of intent is published in the federal register. The period allows the public to identify community and local issues that might be important to the development of the impact statement. The period ends March 18.

Written comments can be mailed to Courtenay Hoernemann, project environmental planner, 20 N. 8th St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, or by email to frederick.va.siteaquisition@gsa.gov. The GSA will publish future notices to announce the availability of the draft statement and any additional opportunities for public input.

Once the GSA completes the supplemental environmental impact study, the agency plans to buy the land in early 2016, Gilliam stated. The GSA will then proceed with the facility’s design and begin construction in the fall 2017.

The fiscal 2014 budget appropriated $97.85 million for the project — 10 years after the GSA announced that Frederick County fit its criteria for site selection, including its proximity to Washington, D.C., reliable transportation and communication networks, an educated work force and an absence of potential terrorist targets.

The FBI’s 10-year lease at the former Jouan Inc. plant in the East Gate Industrial Park off U.S. 522 near Stephens City, which it uses for temporary records storage, expires in August 2016.

Local officials have seen this project as a likely boon to the area economy.

Patrick Barker, executive director of the Frederick County Economic Development Authority, commented Friday on the GSA’s move to study the sites.

“Obviously it’s a positive step in this process and obviously this go-around with the project there was a lot more confidence that the project would proceed,” Barker said. “[When] the money was placed in the budget and approved by both the House and the Senate, it gave a stronger probability for the project to occur, so obviously we’re excited to see the FBI’s Critical Records Complex take that next step forward.

“We’re very eager to work with the GSA and the FBI and the community and the property owners, of which were on the shortlist, to move this process forward,” Barker said.

The notice from the GSA states that a final impact statement and a record of decision were issued for the project in May 2007. The project was to be completed as a lease construction and the GSA continued with the procurement process. However, because of market conditions and the specialized nature of the facility, the GSA could not award a lease.

In 2011, the complex was projected to employ 1,200 people. The number of jobs the project could bring — new positions and transfers from other FBI facilities — likely will come up in future conversations during the planning process, Barker said.

“It’s been a long time since the project was first announced and the jobs that were talked about then some of those have occurred with their current facility in Stephens City,” Barker said. “So we’re obviously curious to what, in addition to Stephens City, will come and those likely standard questions when you have something of this kind of a magnitude, a capital investment-type project.”

The White Hall property near the last exit on Interstate 81 before the West Virginia line was the first property in serious contention for the records facility, Barker recalled. But a lot has changed since then.

“Again, we’re talking in a sense almost a … completely different project than last time,” Barker said. “So I’m not sure you can draw any similarities or any conclusions to that.”

The county’s Comprehensive Plan suggests that all three sites be used for industrial and/or commercial activity, Barker noted.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com