County blesses Montessori School of McLean’s plan to buy church site

Chesterbrook United Methodist Church and Montessori School of McLean share a building at 1711 Kirby Road in McLean (via Google Maps)

The Montessori School of McLean is on track to celebrate its 50th anniversary on the same site where it has spent the past half-century.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a special exception permit for the private school and child care center on May 23, allowing it to remain at 1711 Kirby Road even after the church that owns the 3.87-acre property relocates.

The school is expected to buy the property from the Chesterbrook United Methodist Church (UMC), which is being consolidated and moved to another site, according to Holland & Knight land use attorney David Schneider, who represented the Montessori school at the board’s public hearing.

“To [move], they have to be able to sell this site first, and the school has more than 25 years left on its lease, so it’s the only logical purchaser,” Schneider said. “They’ve been a tenant for a long time, they have a great relationship with the church, and they were able to come to terms.”

Chesterbrook UMC hasn’t publicly announced where its new location will be and didn’t return FFXnow’s requests for comment. However, the building at 6817 Dean Drive has been vacant since the Charles Wesley UMC closed its ministry there on June 30, 2020.

The church at Kirby Road was built in 1920, and the Montessori school has been a tenant since a second educational building was constructed on the property in 1973.

Schneider called the application “simple,” with no new construction or changes to its 265-student enrollment cap planned. The school does intend to expand its operating hours from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.-7 p.m. to accommodate after-school activities.

However, a resident from the Franklin Area Citizens Association sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors warning that the plan “presents a clear and present danger due to traffic safety,” particularly for children, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said.

Schneider said the school understands the resident’s concern but doesn’t anticipate any traffic issues, since vehicle trips are expected to go down after the church departs.

“The Montessori school and him are in complete agreement that the safety of the children is priority number one, so there’s no disagreement there,” Schneider said. “…With the removal of the church use, there’s 24 additional surplus [parking] spaces on the property, so queuing and everything, which already works, is only going to get better on the site with that additional availability.”

According to Schneider, neighbors of the property — which is near single-family homes and the Chesterbrook Shopping Center — expressed support for the school, as did the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce and McLean Citizens Association planning and zoning committee.

Foust said the feedback he got from the community was generally supportive, and Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay congratulated the school for reaching the “big milestone” of 50 years.

“We’re lucky to have you, and we’re glad that you’ll be able to stay in that space,” Foust said. “I will say that although there was some negativity from one individual in particular, I got a lot of supportive correspondence suggesting what a wonderful member of the community you’ve been and how much you’ve done to help their children over the years and so forth.”

Photo via Google Maps

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