Tysons Corner, VA

(Updated at 11:45 a.m. 7/19/19) Fairfax County declared a local emergency as it seeks federal disaster aid to help with flash flooding damage.

In a board matter approved at the Board of Supervisors meeting today (Tuesday), Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said, “The McLean-Falls Church area was particularly hard hit. Today, more than a week later, there are roads in the county that remain closed with no estimated date for reopening.”

The flooding caused extensive disruption to the area from water rescues to road closures last week.

The region experienced about one month’s worth of rain, making it the heaviest one-hour total rainfall since at least 1936, according to the Washington Post. The City of Falls Church and Arlington County both declared a state of emergency just days after the storm.

More from a copy of the board matter that Tysons Reporter received:

Fortunately, despite the intensity of the storm, no one was severely injured or worse. The Office of Emergency Management and the county’s public safety and public works staffs were great! I commend them for reacting promptly and very professionally to emergencies that occurred throughout the county.

Since the storm, my office has received dozens of emails and phone calls from residents who experienced devastating damage to their property. Many residents had several feet of water and mud in their basements. Others experienced even worse damage. Some residents have estimated the cost to repair the damage will be as high as six figures.

The Office of Emergency Management has asked residents and businesses to file damage reports so that the county can evaluate whether we will pursue federal disaster aid… [Residents] are anxiously inquiring whether Fairfax County will do the same. They also need to know what federal aid might be available to them if a federal disaster is declared.

Residents are also learning that their property insurance may not cover their damages. Some residents believe that a lack of adequate infrastructure to convey some or all the stormwater contributed to the damage they suffered. Some have inquired about filing potential claims against the county and/or the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Now, County Executive Brian Hill will need to let the board know about the status and timing for determining whether or not the county will receive federal disaster aid after the county retroactively declared a local emergency.

“Many asked why we didn’t do a declaration the day after the storm like Arlington,” Hill said.

Hill said that he had several conversations with Foust about the process and that meetings are scheduled with the county’s stormwater management crew. “We will probably need to change how we do our engineering going forward,” Hill said.

The county’s Emergency Management Coordinator Seamus Mooney is set to update the county in the last week of July, Hill said.

Additionally, Foust’s board matter directed the county to create an informational flyer or brochure about how residents can submit damage claims to the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation, along with a list of county services and resources that could assist residents experiencing storm damage.

Chairman Sharon Bulova said that it’s also important to push information on social media on what people should report and why.

“We will likely have additional storm and water events in the future,” Bulova said, adding, “We’ve gotten really good at snow and not so much with water.”

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After major flash flooding caused widespread damage on Monday (July 8), Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust shared how the county can better prepare for future storms and what steps are currently underway.

“It was horrific in certain areas,” Foust said. “It came by and went so fast.”

Foust said that while he wasn’t surprised by the damage from the flash flooding on Monday, it was the worst he has ever seen in Fairfax County.

Tysons Reporter talked to Foust about how work after the storm has been going around the Tysons area and what infrastructure improvements are needed to help the county weather the next big storm.

When the flooding started, Foust said he was inside his home during the brunt of the storm, waiting to get to his car parked outside. Eventually, Foust said he was able to get outside and drive to his office, which is nearby — “Pretty easy compared to what many had to go through,” he said.

Assessing the Damage

From a multitude of road closures to flooded backyards, from more than 55 water rescues to three missing chickens swept away, clean-up and assessment are still underway across the county.

In an email to residents last night (Wednesday), Foust urged people affected by the storm to submit information online to a disaster damage database to help the county with its damage assessment. People can submit reports until Wednesday, July 24.

“While owners are responsible for repairs on their property, the county could use this data to pursue disaster aid through the federal government to the extent such aid is available,” Foust wrote.

The Town of Vienna also tweeted about the database, writing, “Damage reports may impact what — if any– federal disaster assistance may be made available.”

As for the cleanup efforts this week, Foust said, “The county staff performed extremely well.”

Foust also praised the county’s work on stream restoration, which recently included Bull Neck Run and Dead Run Stream.

Road Work Underway 

Foust said that several improvement projects are slated to help roads weather serious flooding in the future, including Tucker Avenue and Chesterbrook Road in McLean.

The Tucker Avenue project will address flooding along the avenue from Birch Street to where it deadends at the Pimmit Run stream. Project design is set to start this summer, he said.

“It’s almost scary what happens on that road when it rains hard,” he said because of the road’s incline may make it the worst road for flooding in the McLean District. “Not a meandering stream but a roaring river.”

The Chesterbrook project at the intersection of Chesterbrook Road and N. Albemarle Street is set to add a larger pipe for more water. While the Virginia Department of Transportation had said that the project may start in the fall, plans have not been finalized, he said.

In addition to the work on those local roads, Fouse said that the Route 7 widening project includes elevating the road where Dead Run Stream regularly floods Route 7.

Preparing for the Next Big Flood

Going forward, “a lot of things need to be done,” Foust said to minimize damage from another major storm.

McLean and the general area around Tysons were built before stormwater management requirements, which the county is now trying to superimpose with a new system, he said.

Foust said that as changing weather patterns could see severity increase for future storms, he wants the county to prioritize funding stormwater management projects and work with developers of infill projects, which develops vacant or under-used areas within existing urban areas, to better manage stormwater sites.

“The funding is never adequate,” Foust said Capital Improvement Program funding for stormwater management projects. “You do the best you can with the resources you have. For available resources, we need to prioritize stormwater management projects more than in the past.”

Whenever the next big flash flooding hits, Foust said that he hopes for more notice from forecasters.

“It’s one thing when you see it coming,” he said.

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After a seeming defeat, the for-profit therapy program Newport Academy is fighting back against a zoning ruling that would keep it out of a McLean neighborhood.

The Newport Academy, a for-profit therapy program for teens with mental health or addiction problems, wanted to turn its three purchased homes (1620, 1622, and 1624 Davidson Road) into a treatment facility.

Newport Academy’s plans to open the McLean facility hinged on it being a by-right use, which wouldn’t require approval by the Board of Supervisors. Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust has previously said that he would oppose the development if it was brought to the county board for a vote.

In May, Fairfax County Zoning Administrator Leslie Johnson determined that facility at Davidson Road would not be permitted as a by-right use and would require approval from the Board of Supervisors.

On Friday (June 14), Newport Academy filed an appeal to that ruling, staff at the Board of Zoning Appeals told Tysons Reporter. Zoning policy stipulates that the case will be scheduled within 90 days of the appeal being accepted unless staff and the appellant agree to something outside of that timeframe.

Brian Worthy, a Fairfax County spokesman, said that county staff are currently going through the application before the county officially accepts it — a standard procedure for every application.

While the zoning official’s ruling seemed to be a win for neighbors opposing the controversial treatment facility, Newport Academy’s push to appeal the zoning determination signals a possibly longer fight ahead for both sides.

Currently, Newport Academy has three jobs listed for McLean: a part-time fully licensed adolescent therapist, an LPN licensed practical nurse and a housekeeper.

Newport Academy also has plans for another project at 1318 Kurtz Road — a standalone property that was not considered in Johnson’s review. What will happen to the Kurtz property remains unclear.

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Amid a roar of traffic, a dozen Fairfax County officials gathered to break ground on an extensive Leesburg Pike (Route 7) widening project.

The ceremony was today (Thursday) at Capital Church on the border of the Hunter Mill and Dranesville districts, with their respective Board of Supervisors representatives Cathy Hudgins and John Foust present.

The project will involve adding a third lane to Leesburg Pike in each direction from Reston to Tysons. At the groundbreaking, officials highlighted the new shared-use paths and other improvements planned along the corridor to increase capacity, improve safety and traffic flow, and make life a little easier for cyclists and pedestrians.

“This project will enhance nobility…” said Sharon Bulova, chair of the Fairfax County Board, then laughed and corrected herself, “mobility, but [nobility] too, for cycling and pedestrians.”

The shared-use paths are planned to run along both sides of the road, with bridges and underpasses planned along the way and several other intersection improvements.

“It’s an important milestone many years in the making,” said Bill Cutler, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s district construction engineer. “It’s a 7-mile corridor and an important multimodal project, with 14 miles of multipurpose trail and access to the Spring Hill Metro station.”

During construction, off-peak lane closures are expected as the project works in segments. Final completion of the project is expected for summer 2024.

“If you’re sitting here wondering why we’re doing this, traffic seems to be going pretty well… it’s too late now,” said Foust. “In 2010, it was said that if Tysons was going to work, we needed to ensure that vehicles could get out of Tysons… This improvement will, I hope, make it much more attractive for drivers to stay on Route 7. Right now, we have a lot of cut-through traffic taking Georgetown Pike or Lewinsville Road trying to avoid traffic on Route 7. I think this will go a long way to addressing challenges with cut-through traffic.”

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New plans are on the way to fix traffic on the Dolley Madison Corridor between Tysons and McLean.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust are planning a meeting next Thursday (June 13) at 7 p.m. in the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue) to discuss the new “Dolley Madison Corridor Study.” According to the meeting description:

The purpose of the study is to analyze Dolley Madison Boulevard between the Dulles Toll Road and Old Dominion Drive and recommend solutions to improve traffic conditions. The team will present a variety of options with traffic model analysis and is looking for feedback from the public on the short-term and long-term improvements presented.

A Fairfax County Transportation status report from February said that four local intersections are being evaluated to understand how changes to one impact the others.

  • Dolley Madison Boulevard, Great Falls Street and Lewinsville Road intersection
  • Dolley Madison Boulevard and Old Dominion Drive intersection
  • Great Falls Street and Chain Bridge Road intersection
  • Balls Hill Road and Lewinsville Road intersection

Robin Geiger, head of communications for FCDOT, also said the intersections of Dolley Madison Boulevard and Ingleside Avenue and the intersection of Old Dominion Drive and Ingleside Avenue are being considered. Geiger said staff evaluated short term solutions that could be implemented to benefit traffic over the next 10 years.

The status report noted that FCDOT staff presented scenarios to Foust’s office and they were asked to look at more long-term solutions as well. Geiger said FCDOT are considering longer-term solutions for the Great Falls Street/Lewinsville Road intersection with Dolley Madison Boulevard near Tysons and the intersection with Old Dominion Drive.

The specific solutions being proposed are not presently available, but Geiger said a website for the project is planned to be launched soon and community feedback will be gathered at the June 13 meeting.

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The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) could finally be weighing in tomorrow night regarding the group homes controversy, but the fight may already be over.

A draft resolution planned to be discussed at MCA’s Wednesday (June 5) meeting would oppose a special exception that would allow the Newport Academy, a for-profit therapy and rehabilitation program for teens, to open a facility at 1620, 1622 and 1624 Davidson Road, located in a residential neighborhood near McLean High School.

But the proposed resolution comes late in the game — local residents started protesting the issue more than two months ago.

A grassroots group opposing a rehabilitation facility recently claimed victory, although the sourcing for that win remains unclear.

An administrator on the Davidson and Kurtz Road Rehab Facility Facebook page — a nearly 500 member group that had been a discussion board for residents opposed to the development — said last Tuesday (May 28) he received the following statement from the Newport Academy:

Newport Academy is the nation’s leading provider of mental health residential and outpatient treatment for teens and young adults. As such, we have received direct requests from parents, clinicians, insurance companies and other referral sources to bring our well-recognized adolescent mental health treatment program to the Northern Virginia market. To that end, we acquired multiple properties to extend our reach more formally into the McLean community. Although these group homes are fully legal and protected under the Fair Housing Act, as well as other applicable federal, Virginia and Fairfax County laws, Newport Academy has listened to the community’s feedback and has opted to modify its expansion plans by ceasing planned openings on Davidson Road.

Our commitment to service the Northern Virginia market remains intact. We look forward to opening these much-needed services in McLean in the near future and hope to keep the lines of communication open with the community and its elected officials as we seek to contribute in a positive way towards addressing the mental health crisis in the greater DC area.

After repeated calls to the main company line and to the group’s community liaison in McLean over a week, Tysons Reporter was unable to confirm the source of the statement.

Staff at Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust’s office said they received an identical statement, but could not get confirmation from the Newport Academy that they were the source.

Two weeks ago, Fairfax County Zoning Administrator Leslie Johnson wrote in a letter that the facility would not be permitted as a by-right use and would require approval from the Board of Supervisors. Foust had previously said he would oppose the development if it was brought to the Board of Supervisors for a vote.

The Facebook group shut down one day after the statement allegedly from the Newport Academy was posted, though some members have already started another splinter group to continue discussing the facility and other community concerns.

What will happen with the other proposed group homes not addressed in Johnson’s letter — like the one at 1318 Kurtz Road — remains unclear. The MCA resolution states that the group will revisit the facts regarding the Kurtz Road property.

The MCA meeting starts at at 7 p.m. in the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue).

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Neighbors opposed to a controversial for-profit therapy program got a win from a Fairfax County zoning official’s letter.

A piece of the Newport Academy’s plans to open a facility treating teenagers with mental health or addiction problems in a McLean neighborhood hinged on that facility being a by-right use — a use that won’t require approval by the Board of Supervisors. But local officials are now saying that isn’t the case.

Fairfax County Zoning Administrator Leslie Johnson said in a letter to local residents that the facility is a congregate living facility, which is not permitted as a by-right use at the location.

According to Johnson’s letter, in August 2018 the Newport Academy sent a letter to the Department of Planning and Zoning stating its intent to open two homes — one at 1624 Davidson Road and one at 1318 Kurtz Road — and asked if it could purchase a neighboring house and operate it as a licensed home.

In response, the zoning staff agreed that the buildings would be considered group residential facilities, which are limited to eight residents. The response did not directly answer whether a neighboring home could be used as a licensed home, and the Newport Academy did not contact Fairfax County after it purchased the properties at 1620 and 1622 Davidson Road.

But Johnson said the Newport Academy’s assertion that the homes were separate operations — crucial for qualifying for the eight resident limit — were contradicted by other applications listing the operations as a single program with residents above the limit for the group residential facility classification.

The appearance of the Newport Academy program being a single facility didn’t stop there. Johnson’s letter to the community notes that in April, county staff learned that a 6-foot fence had been built around the facility, “creating the appearance of a completely enclosed facility.”

Johnson’s letter said the supposedly separate facilities were listed as having shared staff, like a security guard and night staff, in both public meetings and other permit applications.”

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New legislation could allow Fairfax County to establish exceptions to no-turn restrictions for local residents.

Last year, McLean residents shot down a plan to eliminate cut-through traffic because it would also limit street access for residents, but new legislation could allow a middle-ground option.

At a Fairfax County Board Transportation Committee meeting today (Tuesday), staff discussed a proposal that would give local residents permits to exempt them from cut-through restrictions either currently in place or to be established.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said the idea came from a local citizen and was presented by Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34th District) to the Virginia legislature, who sponsored HB 2033. The legislation allows Fairfax County to “develop a program to issue permits or stickers to residents of a designated area that will allow such residents to make turns into or out of the designated area during certain times of day where such turns would otherwise be restricted.”

Neil Freschman, section chief of traffic engineering at Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT), said the program would be jointly administered by FCDOT and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to specifically handle traffic that has neither origin nor destination on the road in question.

“This is only relevant for cut-through turns,” Freschman said, “not safety restrictions.”

Once a cut-through restriction is put into place, Freschman said a letter would be sent out to local residents letting them know how to file for a permit.

Currently, staff said there are only two areas that have relevant cut-through restrictions: both of them in the Mason District, but Foust noted that there are places in the Dranesville District where this kind of permit could be a solution to transit woes.

“We don’t want to enforce it against residents, but they say it’s all or nothing: we enforce it against everybody or we don’t enforce it against anybody,” Foust said. “[This idea] allows residents to make the turn onto their own streets if there was a cut-through restriction.”

Staff estimated that developing the new ordinance could take six months, followed by seven months of updating agreements with partner agencies and designing the new permits, and a year to work with a contractor to develop new software. Part of that process would be determining permit-eligible areas and determining if a fee should be charged to residents for the permits, which staff currently does not recommend.

Staff also noted that permits would be issued to vehicles registered at permit-eligible addresses and would not be available to visitors, caregivers, service providers, relatives or others. After questioning from the committee, staff said they would look into seeing about easing that limitation.

Enforcement of the policy would be conducted on a complaint basis, staff said, rather than as a daily activity. Difficulties like low-light conditions and potentially confusing factors, such as unclear signage, were also noted in a report on the project.

The committee approved of staff moving forward with the plan to build guidance and to work with Fairfax County Police to ensure the program is enforceable. The project is expected to return for public hearing and consideration in early 2020.

“This is a breakthrough,” said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova. “We’ve never been able to use a tool like this, but the state legislation allows us to do that.”

Photo via Flickr/Mike Goad

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Tensions reached a boiling point last night (Wednesday) in McLean as local residents threatened to run a therapy center out of town — legally or illegally, in the words of one neighbor.

A series of new group homes by Newport Academy, a corporation that runs therapy programs treating teenagers with mental health or addiction problems, are planned for a residential neighborhood.

Three of the homes — 1620, 1622 and 1624 Davidson Road — are clustered on a private cul-de-sac one block away from McLean High School, while another one is going in at 1318 Kurtz Road.

Representatives from the project, several elected officials and Fairfax County staff started a community meeting in the McLean High School auditorium with presentations about the project, but the more than four-hour-long public hearing after the presentations showed that the project has struck a deep nerve with the local community.

On one side were the Newport Academy staff and a handful of supporters in the audience who said the program is necessary to help deal with the local mental health crisis. Teenagers or adults who said they had struggled with mental health issues described the difficulty of finding treatment facilities in the area. These stories were frequently interrupted by a chorus of booing from the audience — at least once in the middle of a young woman recounting her trauma following a sexual assault.

But opponents of the project — mainly nearby residents or parents with children at McLean High School — comprised the vast majority of the standing-room-only audience in the auditorium.

While they were united in opposition to the project, their reasons varied. Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48th District) conducted an impromptu poll of the audience, and half said they are opposed to any group home while the other half would be fine with just one, but opposed the cluster.

“It’s three houses side by side; it’s a compound,” Robert Mechlin, a nearby resident, told Tysons Reporter. “If I want to build a shed, I have to get a permit. Why isn’t this the same litmus test?”

Mechlin also echoed concerns about how residents of the facility would affect safety in the nearby neighborhood. In the small town of Bethlehem, Conn., students at the Newport Academy were responsible for at least two criminal incidents — the theft of a car and a student who stole bottles of vodka from a local bar. Throughout the evening, nearby residents said the prospect of the treatment facility next door makes them feel unsafe.

Newport Academy Founder and CEO Jamison Monroe said security tightened after the incidents in Connecticut. A presentation on the project noted that alarms would be attached to every door and window and the students would be closely supervised by staff. Later in the meeting, Monroe offered to pay for a security guard to monitor the site, but by then the public concerns around the project ballooned beyond just security.

The secrecy and allegations of deception surrounding the purchasing of the property were also recurring themes among the opponents. Neighbors said that after the properties were purchased, the real estate agents who orchestrated the deals told neighbors they were subject to non-disclosure agreements.

“I was told multiple times that [the development] was for a wealthy individual,” Steve Wydler, a leasing agent with Wydler Brothers Real Estate in McLean, said. “It was only after construction started that we were told the project was under an NDA.”

Monroe admitted that he didn’t know why the non-disclosure agreements were put into place.

“I’ve learned some things about our real estate agents this evening that I was not aware of previously,” Monroe said.

Marc Lampkin, who became one of the unofficial orchestraters of the opposition from a seat in the front row, said the facility would extract money from the students and leave the neighborhood with problems.

“We all appreciate the notion of treatment, but the single biggest concern is that you failed the good neighbor policy out of the box,” Lampkin said. “You hired a real estate agent who bought the property with lies and misrepresentation. You are a for-profit entity and you’re driving a truck through a loophole [in Fair Housing law].”

As frustrations escalated throughout the evening, Monroe became the main target of the community’s rage, with local residents calling him smug, arrogant and a “son of a bitch” several times.

Caught between the two, the elected officials expressed unhappiness with the project, but said it was being redeveloped by-right and left their hands tied.

Two of the rallying cries from the opposition were “Remember Sunrise” — a reference to a plan by Sunrise Senior Living Facility that the Board of Supervisors denied following widespread public outrage — and a promise to oust elected officials if they didn’t vocally oppose the project.

“I do not support three houses on the same site,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said. “But it is the law. In my opinion, one company buying those properties changes the character of the neighborhood. I oppose that. But we do not see a way to stop it.”

The county argued that the project is a group home, which is considered a “by right” development — meaning there’s no requirement of public notice and no zoning approvals needed from the county. Several of the politicians said they first heard of the project when the outrage started.

“I am not at all surprised to see this turnout,” Sullivan said. “Three weeks ago, our emails lit up with questions and comments.”

Complicating the issue, the Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against individuals because of a handicap or disabilities, which the Code of Virginia says includes residential facilities housing individuals with mental illnesses.

But several opponents noted that there are ways around that protection. Some locals questioned whether the project qualified as a group home. Wydler said that the project might not qualify as a residence — a crucial part of the project’s status as a by-right development — given that the average length of stay for students of the program is substantially less than the 183 days that the tax code considers residency.

Fairfax County Attorney Beth Teare said the county was still looking into the zoning regulations and rules surrounding the project. The group’s license application is still pending before the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

If the licenses are granted, Monroe said the facilities could begin operation within a few months. If it does, at least one attendee threatened to file a lawsuit.

Regardless of the outcome, Sullivan said he and other elected officials would look into closing what the public saw as fair housing loopholes.

“One of the things I want to look at moving forward is making sure there is more advanced notice of this sort of thing,” Sullivan said.

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After a large amount of local consternation over the group homes for a rehab facility proposed near McLean High School, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust and other local officials are putting together a meeting to clear things up.

The Newport Academy, a therapy program for teens with mental health or addiction problems, recently purchased three residential homes (1620, 1622, and 1624 Davidson Road) in McLean with the intent of using them as a treatment facility.

Another project is also planned for 1318 Kurtz Road in the Salona Village neighborhood.

The meeting is planned for Wednesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. in the McLean High School Auditorium (1633 Davidson Road).

Foust is expected to be joined at the meeting by a pair of local state lawmakers, Dels. Rip Sullivan and Kathleen Murphy. Representatives from Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and from Monroe LLC  — the company that runs the Newport Academy — are also planning to attend, to explain the new facility.

According to Foust’s office:

The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss the operations of the homes, licensing and permitting authority, relevant legislation and regulations, and resident concerns. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide comments.

Photo via Google Earth

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