On April 24, I, along with 500 of my McLean neighbors attended the community meeting at McLean High School regarding the three residential properties Newport Academies purchased on Davison Road. The community comments were passionate and when the meeting ended at 11p.m., there were still over 100 people advocating for our community. I am writing to express my concern about how Newport Academy has conducted itself in the acquisition of these properties and the initial response from our state and Commonwealth elected leaders.
My family moved to McLean in 2008, and other than a few years away in the Midwest, my children consider McLean “home.” Our eldest will start at McLean High School in the fall, with our youngest following in three years.
I approached Wednesday’s meeting with an open mind, ready to listen to Newport Academy explain why and how they selected the Davidson Road properties. However, not long into their power-point presentation, I had serious concerns.
I am not opposed to community-based treatment for mental health issues. Having experienced first-hand family in treatment, I am a strong supporter of community-based treatment. My concern is about how privately-held, for-profit Newport Academy approached its business dealings with the community that has raised my ire at the company and concerns about their honesty in being a “good neighbor.”
Let’s do the math. Newport Academy purchased three adjacent properties on Davidson Road. Newport Academy claims there will be on average 7 to 9 cars per house at all times - that’s 21 to 27 cars parked on Davidson Road. The CEO of Newport Academy, Jameson Monroe, also stated that along with psychologists and therapists, family is an integral part of recovery treatment. In my experience, a successful treatment program does have strong family involvement. That also means an increase in traffic during visiting hours for the up-to 24 patients who will reside in these three properties for 6-10 weeks (according to CEO Monroe). Additionally, there will be the day-to-day delivery vehicles coming and going from a commercial property. To support the parking required for the vehicular traffic, Newport Academy has paved over much, if not all, of the green space in front of the Davidson Road properties. I am also concerned about rainwater runoff – the water will go where gravity takes it, meaning into the neighboring properties or right down onto Davidson Road.
As the current President of the McLean Swim and Tennis Club (MSTA), that sits 1/8 mile away, I’m concerned about the increase in traffic on this tiny road used by hundreds of kids who walk and bike to the pool. Many of the MSTA families enjoy the club because it is a community club, one where kids and families can walk or bike to enjoy. My concern is that this increase in traffic will put our families and children at risk.
As I stated, I am not opposed to community-based treatment, far from it. I have been the benefits and support efforts to provide treatment that families can fully be a part of. No, my concern (even anger) is how Newport Academy is flouting a “loophole” in the law. Our elected officials at the local and State level eluded that Newport Academy may be exploiting such a loophole here.
My challenge to our elected leadership is this – don’t be passive, engage and question what is going on here. The Federal housing law has a legitimate purpose in protecting against housing discriminating on account of disability, which include addition and mental illness. This does not negate the state and local authorities duties to enforce existing regulations. Query, whether this is actually a congregate living facility under Fairfax County law, a designation that allows for short-term care services for minors. If so, then why hasn’t Newport Academy applied under this law. Has a traffic study been done to look at the impact on the community and high school. Davidson Road is the main access point for students and drop-offs at the school; what will the impact of three group homes be on this narrow two-lane road? Finally, has there been any study or paperwork submitted to show the impact of paving over all green space in front of these homes been done?
I implore the community and our elected leaders to engage on this issue. Yes, mental health issues are the silent killer in our society today. Many people, of all ages, suffer. Treatment options are few and far between for many families. Something like Newport Academy may be an option. Community-based treatment may be an option. McLean is happy and willing to be a good neighbor. We expect the same level of transparency and honesty from those who wish to do business in our community. Newport Academy has not done that here.