As unsuccessful bidders for a Federal building project and as neighboring residents,
plaintiffs brought action against the General Services Administration (GSA)
under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) challenging the adequacy
of the Environmental Impact Statement prepared for the project. Plaintiffs also
claimed GSA had violated NHPA by failing to 1) examine the impacts on historic
properties adequately and avert such impacts; and 2) prevent the destruction
of a historic property by the successful bidder. The successful bidder intervened
in the case. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The court
ruled in favor of GSA and the intervenor, granting their motions for summary
Regarding the NEPA claims, the district court held that GSA was not required to consider the unsuccessful bidder's alternative scenario for the proposed project. Such alternative simply did not meet all of the requirements in GSA's solicitation for offers. The court also found that GSA's reliance on the State department of transportation's studies to determine the impact of the project on traffic was a reasonable means to satisfy the "hard look" requirement of NEPA.
The court proceeded to analyze plaintiffs' NHPA claim. Plaintiffs argued that GSA violated NHPA by failing to prevent the successful bidders from destroying a historic roundhouse located on the site of the proposed building project. However, the court first noted that GSA was fully cognizant of the requirements of Section 110(k) of NHPA. Section 110(k) prohibits Federal agencies from providing grants, loans, permits, or other assistance to any applicant who, with the intent to avoid the requirements of Section 106 of NHPA, destroys a historic property, unless the agency consulted with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (Council) to determine whether such assistance was nevertheless justified. Once the property was demolished, the Council told GSA that GSA had to determine whether the bidder had destroyed the property with the intent to avoid the requirements of Section 106.
GSA not only determined such an intent was not present, but also that circumstances justified keeping the bidder despite the destruction of the property. The property owner had been working since 1988 to secure a master plan for the property, which included demolition of the historic property. The record supported the contention that the historic property was scheduled for demolition in the early 1990s, long before the Federal project in this case existed. The record also indicated that in 1995 the city of Alexandria, Virginia, required photos of the historic property "prior to the planned private demolition under its city's archeology ordinance."
The court therefore agreed with GSA, and concluded that the demolition was not intended to avoid Section 106 requirements, and therefore not in violation of the provisions of Section 110(k).
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