Sunrise Senior Living is suing Town of Vienna officials for $30 million after the Town Council rejected a rezoning application for an assisted living facility downtown.
The Vienna Town Council rejected the rezoning application for the proposed 82-unit facility in June after a long back-and-forth over a myriad of concerns involving parking, retail space and the location at the corner of Maple Avenue and Center Street.
While some councilmembers said that they felt Sunrise’s proposed parking for the facility would be sufficient for residents, guests, employees and shoppers, others said the facility would worsen the town’s parking woes.
On June 17, then-Councilmember Tara Bloch put forward a motion to approve the project, which failed with a 3-4 vote. Bloch, Linda Colbert and outgoing Councilmember Carey Sienicki voted in favor of the project. Mayor Laurie DiRocco, Pasha Majdi, Howard Springsteen and Douglas Noble voted no.
A month later on July 17, Sunrise filed a lawsuit in Fairfax County Circuit Court against Noble, DiRocco and Town Attorney Steve Briglia, according to a copy of the lawsuit, which was first reported by the Sun Gazette.
Sunrise is arguing that the Town Council’s rejection violated the Virginia Fair Housing Law by discriminating against seniors and people with disabilities.
“This case is about the Town Council’s intentional exclusion of the elderly and disable senior from residing in downtown Vienna based upon discriminatory, illegal, and irrational biases and assumptions,” the lawsuit says, adding that the town does not have any senior living facilities.
In the lawsuit, Sunrise claims that the rezoning application was consistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan and that some council members’ concerns about parking “were not grounded in empirical evidence, and thus were necessarily arbitrary and capricious.”
“Simply put, the elderly and disabled were not types of people that the Council wanted to see front and center downtown,” the lawsuit says, “They did not fit into the downtown vision.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the Town Council treated Sunrise differently from other developers seeking rezoning under the Maple Avenue Commercial Zone.
Briglia, the town’s attorney, told Tysons Reporter that the town does not comment on pending on litigation, although he added that the town disputes the allegation that the council violated the Virginia Fair Housing Law. Briglia said that town filed its response to the lawsuit yesterday (Wednesday).
Sunrise is seeking a jury trial and wants the Town Council to reconsider its denial of the rezoning application and pay Sunrise $30 million in damages, plus legal fees.
Image via Town of Vienna