Tysons Corner, VA

controversial for-profit therapy program got a win in a Fairfax County zoning official’s letter.

Newport Academy, a therapy program for teens with mental health or addiction problems, wanted to open two treatment facilities — one along Davidson Road and another at 1318 Kurtz Road in the Salona Village neighborhood.

While the planned treatment facilities have received widespread community backlash, Newport Academy has hinged its claim on the two locations being by-right uses — a use that won’t require approval by the Board of Supervisors.

Fairfax County Zoning Administrator Leslie Johnson issued a letter yesterday (Wednesday), saying that the Kurtz Road facility is a group residential facility based on her review of Newport Academy’s revised license application.

Johnson’s letter notes that Newport Academy is no longer planning to open a facility at the Davidson Road properties.

“Newport Academy has instead filed a revised license application with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to operate a single Mental Health Children’s Residential Service for up to 8 female residents ages 12-17 to be located at 1318 Kurtz Road,” the letter said.

More from Johnson’s letter to the legal counsel for Newport Academy:

Your August 5 letter did not fully respond to my questions, but you did indicate that at the time of admission a resident is expected to stay between 45 and 90 days, with the average stay between 45 and 60 days. You note that Newport Academy is not a drug rehabilitation facility and does not provide detoxification services; no individual who enters treatment with Newport Academy is currently using illicit substances.

Further, you state that no staff will live at the Kurtz Property, but you did not indicate how many non-resident staff will be on site at any one time. You stated that my request for such information is solely within the purview of VDBHDS. (We have requested and received this type of information from other providers of residential mental health and disability services as part of similar use determination requests.) Based on a review of the license application for the Kurtz Road property, it appears that at least 8 staff members will be on site from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. You indicate that mornings will typically be set aside for academics and individual therapy, afternoons for group therapy (including music therapy, life skills counseling, yoga, meditation and other fitness activities) and evenings reserved for additional study and therapy as needed. Meals will be eaten in a family-style setting, and residents are engaged in programming and under staff supervision from the time they wake up until they go to sleep, with “awake” supervising staff on site 24 hours per day.

With regard to parking, you note that the Zoning Ordinance does not limit the amount of parking on a residential lot, but that the driveway can accommodate up to 8 vehicles, not including the 3-car garage… It appears that the property currently complies with these provisions. However, any future paving or expansion of the driveway within the front yard could conflict with this provision. Finally, you indicate that Newport Academy will take appropriate actions–through the use of a shuttle, off-site parking, and other means as necessary–to minimize the number of vehicles (whether staff or visitors) parked at the property at any given time.

The facility will need to be licensed by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

Johnson noted that the determination is not a written order or notice of a zoning violation and that it can be appealed to the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

Image via Google Maps

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The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals is set to determine this fall whether or not a contentious for-profit therapy program for teens can open in McLean.

Newport Academy’s plans to turn its three purchased homes (1620, 1622, and 1624 Davidson Road) into a treatment facility got derailed after the county’s zoning administrator said the facility is not a by-right use.

While the zoning administrator added that the facility would require approval from the Board of Supervisors, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust has previously said that he would oppose the facility if it was brought to the county board for a vote.

Newport Academy is looking to appeal the ruling, and now the zoning issue is set to go before the Board of Zoning Appeals on Oct. 30, BZA staff told Tysons Reporter, adding that people interested in the case should check a week or two before that date to confirm it will still take place.

“These dates do sometimes change, although I do not believe that will be the case for this hearing,” staff wrote.

It is unclear what will happen to Newport Academy’s proposed group home at 1318 Kurtz Road, which was not addressed in the zoning administrator’s ruling.

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A clerical error has left Sweet Leaf Cafe in McLean in a three-year legal fight to not be zoned as a residential property.

The restaurant is currently operating in violation of zoning code. A non-residential use permit had been issued for the site for retail sales, but not to operate what the zoning law refers to as a fast-food establishment.

At a July 17 meeting, the Board of Zoning Appeals deferred Sweet Leaf’s appeal to Oct. 23, making this the 12th time the issue has been appealed since early 2016.

County staff said Sweet Leaf is pursuing a parking reduction to fall in-line with the zoning ordinance but has hit a few snags.

According to Fairfax County spokesperson Brian Worthy:

Sweet Leaf needs a non-residential use permit for a restaurant, and this is the current issue involved in the zoning appeal. However, the restaurant cannot get this permit until it applies for a parking reduction that the Board of Supervisors must approve. Therefore, the July 17 Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing for this case was deferred because the applicant is working to apply for the reduction. The business requires at least 14 parking spaces based on zoning rules, but the site can only physically accommodate the existing 12 parking spaces. If this reduction is approved, the applicant can get its non-residential use permit. Previous public hearings were deferred at the applicant’s own request.

While Sweet Leaf works with the county government to find a solution, staff said the restaurant has been allowed to continue operating.

“Sweet Leaf has been allowed to stay open without the non-residential use permit for a restaurant because they are working to acquire the proper zoning permit,” said Fairfax County Public Information Officer Crystal Santos. “Unfortunately, a previous administrative error allowed the restaurant to operate as a retail establishment for zoning purposes. However, Sweat Leaf has been subject to all health regulations and licensing requirements related to owning and operating a restaurant in Fairfax County since they opened in 2009.”

Prior to Sweet Leaf, the space was operated under a similar food use for seven years, according to Sweet Leaf owner Andre Matini.

“Sweet Leaf completed all the proper paperwork and was issued a zoning permit… to operate as a food use,” Matini wrote in an email. “We are not exactly sure what has transpired since we opened over ten years ago but this issue seems to be an oversight by the issuer… Unfortunately, this has been an extremely costly process for us.”

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said it was an innocent error and staff has been working to make sure the restaurant can continue operating and obtain the proper zoning.

“Basically it’s come down to a parking issue,” Foust said. “[Staff] is continuing to search for a solution. They think they have one, and it’s a little creative, but they’re trying to work through it.”

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Despite having a cameo on next Wednesday’s (July 31) Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) agenda, County staff say the American Legion noise issue in McLean is settled.

The American Legion Post 270 at 1355 Balls Hill Road had some trouble over noise complaints from residential neighbors. But in February, the Post received a favorable ruling from the BZA allowing them to continue to host events.

The docket for the BZA says the Board will consider an appeal an original ruling against the American Legion post. Crystal Santos, public information officer for Fairfax County Government, said the County won’t challenge the BZA’s February decision.

“In February the Board of Zoning Appeals ruled that the American Legion could have private parties hosted by non-members,” said Santos in an email. “Following that decision, the American Legion submitted a second appeal to have the Zoning Administrator’s original determination that these parties are not allowed, overturned. Since the County will not appeal the February BZA decision, the second appeal is moot and the county is requesting for it to be dismissed.”

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said there are still some upset residents, but he hopes the American Legion can continue working with them to resolve the sound complaints in a neighborly fashion.

“From a procedural standpoint, nothing to fight about,” Foust said. “They have new leadership at the American Legion… everyone is still hoping for a kumbaya moment to solve the issue.”

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Crescendo Studios now has plans to expand after opening a few months ago in Merrifield.

The education-oriented music studio is looking to use a currently empty space adjacent to the studio’s existing location (8101 Lee Hwy), according to Fairfax County documents.

With the extra square footage, Crescendo would offer both an expanded music education center with group and private lessons and on-site recording studios, according to the application.

The studio’s application in June to the county noted that they would be able to increase their clientele and take on around 90 students.

“The majority of the students are expected to be between the age of 7 and 17, though some adults may also enroll,” according to the application.

The music school’s proposed hours of operation would be noon- 9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. on Saturday. The recording studio would be available 9 a.m.- 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on the weekend.

Crescendo told the county that the expansion would not affect parking in the area.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is slated to hold a public hearing on the proposal in November.

Photo via Facebook and image 2 via Fairfax County 

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After a slew of noise violations, Bey Lounge agreed with the Town of Vienna to no longer offer live music.

Rami El-Hasrouni, one of the co-owners of Bey Lounge, told the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals last night (Wednesday) that the lounge (303 Mill Street) would no longer need its live entertainment permit, which the board was considering revoking.

“We’re going to be a straight restaurant from now on,” El-Hasrouni told the board.

The issues for the lounge started several months ago when it received a number of noise complaints and then was found guilty of three noise violation cases in a General District Court.

El-Hasrouni told Tysons Reporter that the cost of paying for lawyers and the permit renewal “were way too much” for the lounge, which is known for its Lebanese cuisine and live music.

“Right now, we are in the process of changing the lounge in general just because once we don’t have live entertainment we are going to lose all our customers, so we are very in risk of losing our business right now,” he said.

The “new concept” under consideration could possibly add more seating and “putting more grocery inside the lounge,” he said, adding that a timeframe hasn’t been set yet.

“Hopefully, it works,” he said.

Photo via Google Maps

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A public hearing tonight (Monday) will determine the fate of a contentious, mixed-use development previously approved by the Vienna Town Council.

The proposed redevelopment would add a mixed-use, four-floor building with ground-floor retail and more than three dozen multi-family residential condominium units to 380 Maple Avenue.

After a long series of delays, the Town Council approved the development in June. A few weeks later, the new Town Council decided to hold a public hearing on possibly rescinding the project’s rezoning application, pointing to the town’s failure to notify the county about the project, along with other issues.

Now, the project faces a joint public hearing by the Town Council and the town’s Planning Commission tonight that will allow community members to give their opinions on possibly adjusting or rescinding the proposal. The event starts at 8 p.m. in the Vienna Town Hall (127 S. Center Street).

The Vienna Business Association will speak out at the meeting against the proposition to revoke the license.

According to a press release from the Vienna Business Association:

The question on July 15th is not whether we support the 380 Maple Avenue development, it’s whether we want to create in our Town the climate and reputation that will ensue from a rescinding vote.

  • The rescind motion also raises many questions:
  • Can businesses and developers be assured that the town is negotiating in good faith, or will negotiations suffer from a concern of “will they rescind this too?”
  • Do businesses and commercial property owners need to take proactive steps to keep their rights from being infringed by adjacent residents?
  • What legal liability does the Town create for itself by rescinding? Is the liability limited to the developer’s costs to date, or to the loss of future potential revenue from the development?

Image via Town of Vienna

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Bey Lounge is at risk of losing its live-entertainment permit after a slew of noise complaints got the restaurant and bar in trouble with the Town of Vienna.

The town’s Board of Zoning Appeals is set to hold a public hearing next Wednesday, July 17, on potentially revoking the Bey Lounge’s live entertainment permit.

Located at 303 Mill Street, Bey Lounge offers Lebanese cuisine, hookahs and live music. Over the last several months, the lounge received a number of noise complaints.

Town Attorney Steve Briglia told the Town Council on Monday, July 1, that a General District Court had found Bey Lounge guilty of three noise violation cases, ordering the hookah bar to pay $1,500. Briglia said that the cases won’t be appealed to the Circuit Court.

Zoning Administrator Frank Simeck filed an application to revoke the hookah bar’s live entertainment permit, prompting the public hearing next week, which starts at 8 p.m.

Photo via Google Maps

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In its appeal to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), group home operator Newport Academy said county staff overreached in its determination against a planned facility in McLean.

There have been more than a few stories recently on the Newport Academy’s planned opening of a for-profit therapy program in a McLean neighborhood, but as Fairfax County Board Chairman Sharon Bulova pointed out, it’s an issue that could set precedent in Fairfax.

In May, Fairfax County Zoning Administrator Leslie Johnson issued a letter saying that because the Newport Academy’s three adjacent properties at  1620, 1622 and 1624 Davidson Road shared staff and resources, they were not individual properties eligible for by-right development but as a congregate living facility.

But in the appeal filed to the Board of Zoning Appeals, the Newport Academy laid out its argument that it had been the unfair victim of public backlash and a selective zoning ruling.

“The Newport Academy has been deprived of the right to operate each of the Davidson Properties… as a residential facility for up to eight individuals with mental illnesses as permitted and consistent with [Virginia code],” the company said in the appeal.

The appeal also lays out a timeline of events starting with Newport Academy purchasing one property at 1624 Davidson Road and another at 1318 Kurtz Road. In August, the company sent a series of questions to the Zoning Administrator regarding the prospect of opening multiple homes at Davidson Road, to which zoning answered that the group residential facility may occupy a dwelling unit without any proffered or development conditions and that there was no limitation on the number of group residential facilities.

After this, the appeal says Newport Academy invested millions of dollars on the purchases and renovations for the other properties. Now, the Newport Academy is saying Johnson’s ruling is inconsistent with Virginia law and other codes.

The appeal also alleges that the Newport Academy was the victim of a “sophisticated campaign to turn elected and appointed public officials against Newport Academy’s efforts to provide appropriate mental health services to adolescents in McLean” that included dozens of letters, emails and phone calls from local residents.

The Newport Academy reiterated that it is a group residential facility, defined in zoning ordinance as “a group home or other residential facility with one or more resident or nonresident staff persons, in which no more than eight mentally ill, intellectually disabled or developmentally disabled persons reside… or eight handicapped persons reside.”

Newport Academy alleges in the appeal that Johnson employed external factors without a statutory basis.

“The Zoning Administrator considered factors including common ownership, physical proximity, and programmatic elements of the proposed use at the Davidson Properties, factors not found in either the Virginia statue or the Zoning Ordinance,” the appeal said. “This ‘single facility’ analysis is foreclosed under [Virginia code], which unambiguously invests [the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services] (VDBHDS) as the sole authority to determine whether a home meets the requirements of being considered a ‘residential facility.'”

The Newport Academy argues repeatedly throughout the appeal that Johnson stepped on the VDBHDS’ role as the licensing agency.

The appeal also points to other group residential facilities in Fairfax, like the properties at 8333, 8337, and 8341 Lewinsville Road, which share a driveway and programming across the three facilities.

When, or if, the appeal will be heard by the BZA is still to be determined. The appeal was received on Friday, June 14, and must be scheduled within 90 days if accepted unless other arrangements are agreed to. 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.

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The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) unanimously voted to oppose a controversial series of group homes proposed in McLean.

The vote is the latest push in a fight led by neighbors against plans to open a series of new group homes in a residential neighborhood by McLean High School.

MCA voted last night (June 5) to oppose a special exception that would allow the Newport Academy, a for-profit therapy and rehabilitation program for teens, to open a facility at Davidson Road.

The group also voted to support Fairfax County Zoning Administrator Leslie Johnson’s determination that the facility would not be permitted as a by-right use and would require approval from the Board of Supervisors.

MCA members shared a common sentiment at last night’s meeting: this is not the last time they expect to hear about Newport Academy.

“The MCA will revisit this case if new facts become available or circumstances of the proposed use change, including but not limited to additional facts becoming available about the proposed use at Kurtz Road,” the draft resolution said.

Rob Jackson, the chair of MCA’s Planning and Zoning Committee, said that the vote on the resolution is possibly the beginning, rather than the end, of MCA’s involvement in the Newport controversy.

“We’re just taking one bite of the apple,” Jackson said. “I think we need to wait to see where the next shoe drops.”

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