Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Waiting for Leadership from Elected Officials

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Waiting for Leadership from Elected Officials

McLean is a neighborhood with many selling-points, ideal proximity to DC and all of the benefits of suburbia: a sense of community, good schools, access to community parks and a walkable neighborhood feel. Like Dorothy said, “there’s no place like home” and McLean is an ideal place to raise a family. Unfortunately, this could all change overnight with the addition of Newport Academy as our new “neighbor”.

A common misconception is that the community is outraged over the patients that Newport will treat. That’s because rather than listen to what residents are really saying and the questions for which they are seeking answers, Newport and our own elected representatives are playing the “discrimination” card.

Newport purchased three homes on one road. … When local residents learned of these purchases, they started to ask questions: had a traffic survey been done? No. Had anyone on the street or at the high school or local elected officials been notified of their purchases of all of the homes? No. On Davidson Road, which is a poorly maintained, narrow main thoroughfare for McLean High School, Newport Academy will add approximately 80 or more cars per day in-and-out, including at peak shift-change/dismissal around 3 p.m. Students have already been the victims of car accidents on Westmoreland Street. There are no crosswalks on Davidson, no crossing guards and traffic at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. and at evening events already backs up down the street past the proposed site of the Newport compound.

All of this is peanuts compared to the elephant in the room: how can anyone purchase all of the homes on a cul-de-sac operate and claim that it is a residential use? On that point, residents started to call their representative and ask questions. We were all told that this was a facility of right under federal housing laws so there was nothing that could be done, a “loophole.” This, however, is nothing more than a politically correct soundbite designed to absolve the zoning representatives of their sworn duties.

Federal housing law has a legitimate interest in protecting against housing discrimination on account of disability (including addiction and mental illness). However, that does not negate the state’s duty to residents to enforce existing regulations.

This is under Fairfax County law a Congregate Living Facility, a designation that allows for short-term care services to minors. But it also insists on a number of requirements to protect the neighborhood and the minors at the facility; including a traffic study. Why hasn’t Newport Academy applied under this law? It costs money and involves accountability to our local government, neighborhood residence and Newport’s patients.

Just because Newport Academy says they are the same as any family in any home in Fairfax County does not mean they are. I ask that the Fair Housing Act be applied here, we protect our most vulnerable, we do not allow big business to pervert our laws to avoid compliance and safety regulations that are meant to protect all involved. I’m awaiting leadership from Supervisor John Foust, Delegate Rip Sullivan, the Fairfax zoning board and attorney on how they intend to protect children from Newport Academy’s aggressive bottom line.

Kristin Weithas-Furth