Roberts Says County Wants to Lure FBI Headquarters to BARC
Councilman Roberts urged council to tell the FBI it was not wanted on the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center's grounds.
Point blank, Councilman Rodney Roberts told the Greenbelt City Council Tuesday, "We don't want the FBI at BARC."
But according to Roberts, Prince George's County does. If the FBI relocated its headquarters to the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC), it would bring thousands of jobs into the county.
Facing a long-derided structure that no longer meets its needs, the FBI is considering alternative options, and one of them is relocating, according to the Huffington Post.
"Out of nowhere" the county told the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government's Transportation Planning Board, that Roberts sits on, that they needed to do a bridge project on Sunnyside Avenue, according to Roberts. This made him suspicious, he said.
Much of the Sunnyside Avenue bridge sits on BARC land. The county's website shows a project to replace the existing bridge on Sunnyside Avenue is in its design phase.
The reason being is that the county has essentially settled on two sites for the FBI, Roberts told council—BARC being one and the North Core of the Greenbelt Metro Station, the other.
Although the North Core location was no surprise, the addition of BARC as a contender, raised an alarm for Roberts.
"I would love to have it [the FBI] on the South Core of the Metro stop," Roberts told Patch in an interview Wednesday. "That's 10,000 jobs."
But Roberts feels differently when it comes to the research center. He said BARC has been whittled down from around 14,000 acres to around 6,000. If the FBI takes another 50 acres, the reduction of BARC will continue until there's nothing left, Roberts worried. Already, Walmart wants a part of BARC's south farm near IKEA, he said.
Walmart did not respond to a request on whether it was trying to purchase BARC land by post time.
"I'm just concerned that if we don't address this as soon as possible, it can get legs really quick," Roberts told council Tuesday, asking members to send a letter to county, state and federal officials urging them not to consider BARC.
Mayor Judith "J" Davis told Roberts and the council that she didn't mind waiting before taking action, so that council could see if the proposal did indeed have legs.
"We've gotten this sort of secondhand, third-hand, fourth-hand," Davis said.
It already has legs with the county, Roberts said, referencing an email. City Manager Mike McLaughlin stopped Roberts and council short, urging them to cease the discussion.
Although the topic could not be put back in the bag, having been raised in a public meeting, as well as broadcast live on the Internet, Verizon and Comcast, McLaughlin advised no further discussion.
Roberts did not understand the reason for confidentiality. He had received the information in an email over the Internet, which he said he did not consider a private manner of communication. He also thought the process itself was public.
"How can the county council sit down there, and make a decision about where they want to put something like this and say, 'Oh this has to be privileged information. We're not going to tell anyone about it,'" Roberts asked. "That really makes me mad."
Davis, who had been discussing the information publicly before McLaughlin's warning, told Roberts that the email did say it was confidential.
"Well, right now, Mr. Roberts because you have made it public, it may now be that we are off the table," she told Roberts.
"Well I don't know what the situation is, but it didn't sound like we had a seat at the table to start with," Roberts complained.
Davis told council it was treading on extremely thin ice and said she would like to take the matter up at a later time.
"Under executive session," added Councilmember Edward Putens.
"Since it's property, okay," the mayor said, tagging onto Putens statement.
Roberts remained silent.
Davis told him, "Mr. Roberts not everything has to be in open session, sometimes it has to be in executive session."