A private equity backed rehab company purchased a family subdivision in Leesburg to use as a 25 acre commercial treatment facility campus. Loudoun residents are objecting to residential zoning misuse by a corporation who tried the same thing in McLean in 2019 and were not permitted. The outcome would be precedent setting across Loudoun neighborhood zones.
Most importantly, the commercial treatment campus would jeopardize A Farm Less Ordinary (AFLO), a non-profit for the intellectually and developmentally disabled located directly next door.
At a Circuit Court hearing on 09/26/22 a Judge found that neighbors DO have standing to object. The final hearing to weigh merits will take place on Monday November 7.
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In December 2021, a handful of Gleedsville Road residents were made aware that Newport Academy/Institute, a national, private equity backed, for-profit rehab treatment company, was purchasing a family subdivision of residential homes and a separate 10 acre plot of land near them. They intend to use the subdivision of homes to operate a commercial treatment facility location for 24 adults aged 18-28.
Objecting to corporate misuse of neighborhood homes for profit isn't objecting to mental health. Everyone supports mental and behavioral health care, Loudoun residents are objecting to corporations misusing residential zones for commercial, congregate facilities. Several of those who object have worked extensively in the mental healthcare field, others continue to work and volunteer with local organizations dedicated to providing care and support for mental health and developmental needs.
Newport was already told by Fairfax County in 2019 that a unified operation spread across several adjacent residential homes is congregate and NOT permitted in neighborhood zones. Now they are testing Loudoun and seem to have found a support system of local officials that prefer out of state corporations over their own community.
Not Permitted in Fairfax
In 2019, Newport purchased and began operating out of a row of three McLean neighborhood homes on Davidson Road. After Fairfax County Zoning was made aware by residents, they determined the three home cluster for 24 people, plus staff, was not operating as separate, single-family residences or group homes but was enclosed and sharing resources as a "Congregate Living Facility" which is not permissible in that Fairfax residential zone. Loudoun County Zoning also prohibits congregate facilities in this AR-1 residential zone.
Additionally, the three homes on Gleedsville Road in Loudoun make up a gated family subdivision that share one single-car entry and driveway, and several communal features and amenities. We believe that this location, even more so than the row of McLean homes, define congregate living and should not be misused by a company as a for-profit campus (aerial photo of the compound displayed above).
Not Permitted in Loudoun
Loudoun Zoning informed Newport that their intended use for the three homes was "congregate" and therefore NOT permissible. However, Loudoun Zoning went on to provide information on how Newport could usurp local zoning laws by operating the row of homes as separate "single-family-dwellings" in order to secure "by-right" federal and state protections reserved for group homes. Loudoun Zoning did not perform a site check to see that the three homes in question were a unified family subdivision before providing what we believe was inaccurate alternate use information. In a letter to select neighbors, Newport cited that suggestion from Deputy Zoning Administrator Michele Lohr and added that Loudoun Zoning had determined their proposed use to be permissible - NOT what was stated. All zoning documents are posted for reference further below.
We can only view this second attempt to operate a commercial treatment facility for 24 clients out of three adjacent homes in a residential neighborhood as an intentional strategy. If they are permitted by Loudoun County to supersede zoning laws, it will establish a precedent for all Loudoun neighborhoods which will benefit Newport’s wealthy stakeholders and Canadian private equity investors – not those who seek their care, not our neighborhoods, and not the Loudoun community.
Those who run businesses out of their homes are held to strict rules and standards, only a specific number of visitors and cars can frequent the location out of consideration for the neighborhood setting. However, unlike a traditional group home, Newport's for-profit commercial rehab facilities host dozens of cars for staff, vendors, visitors, client transport, deliveries, etc... Our community can't understand how a non-resident corporation would be permitted to operate a bustling commercial campus out of a cluster of homes amongst Loudoun residents abiding by strict rules for their small home businesses. Commercial treatment facilities should operate out of appropriate zones, this company has the means to easily do so.
This is a time sensitive issue for anyone who objects. All families who live in the homes surrounding the proposed facility united to hire an attorney for the sole purpose of filing an appeal to the Loudoun Zoning Board (BZA). On Thursday April 28, 2022 a public hearing finally addressed the matter. It was an embarrassment and a disservice to Loudoun residents on several fronts. The majority of the BZA members seemed confused about the permitting but steadfast in backing Loudoun Zoning's position that neighbors had no standing and would not be affected by a large commercial campus next door. They also recited Loudoun Zoning's narrative that their determination letter was merely advice and should not have been appealable.
After four hours of legal arguments and testimony from 30+ neighbors, the BZA decided to dismiss the case rather than make a call. Specifically, they said they wanted to wait until Newport filed more permits and shared more details about their plans (not necessary since Newport believes they are able to operate as a "by-right" federally protected group homes), that neighbors could "come back for another bite at the apple", and finally - they expressed concern for Newport's finances after investing in the homes but NO concern that residents were forced to spend tens of thousands to follow their procedures for appeal.
At Circuit Court on September 26, 2022, a Judge ruled that the neighborhood HAS standing, and would be affected by a commercial operation next door. That decision overruled the insistence from Loudoun Zoning and the BZA that residents had no grounds to object. After several of his questions were refused by Newport due to VDHBDS considering a license, the Judge decided to rule on merits after VDHBDS completed their assessment of the proposed campus. In late October, VDHBDS issued a "first conditional" license through December 27, subject to unannounced inspection of the permitted five bedroom facility, and subject to termination. However, since the nineteen "death or serious incident" and "human rights inspections" issues across their three McLean facilities haven't resulted in a license being revoked, it's hard to say what would.
Please donate anything you can to this GoFundMe link and thank you for supporting this fight to uphold Loudoun zoning laws.
What are the immediate impacts?
Beyond opening Loudoun residential zones to this corporate misuse, negatively impacting home values, private equity acquiring more family residences, and fundamentally changing the neighborhood with commercial-level traffic, noise, risk of runaways, emergency service calls, and public disturbances that are reported around their other locations, the 25-acre congregate campus would be detrimental to a celebrated local non-profit.
A Farm Less Ordinary (AFLO), has operated from the land next to the targeted row of homes for years. AFLO provides employment, purpose, and community to developmentally and intellectually disabled via a peaceful, rural, flower and vegetable farm. A commercial campus for 24 adults staying an average of 30-45 days (194-288 different rehab clients per year), in addition to the dozens of staff and medical personnel required, would fundamentally alter the tranquil, stable, reliable environment that was carefully selected and would threaten AFLO's ability to continue.
Loudoun County Zoning rules are clear that congregate/commercial treatment centers are not permitted in agricultural residential (AR-1) zones and that should be upheld. This billion dollar backed corporation has the means and ability to operate from an appropriate zone. AFLO does not have the resources to relocate and, moreover, should not have to be forced to vacate.
Why should all Loudoun residents care? Your neighborhood may be next. If this corporation is permitted to operate commercial facilities out of groups of residential homes, it will be precedent setting and open every neighborhood in Loudoun to this use - by Newport and the dozens of others in the troubled teen and rehab industries with the same business model. HOAs don't matter, they mean nothing for "by-right" uses and we strongly believe that, like other counties targeted, this lucrative business model will spread across Loudoun if it is permitted. More reasons to care are described below.
In May 2019, Fairfax County Zoning determined that Newport operating out of three adjacent homes constituted a Congregate Housing Facility, a use not permitted by their residential zoning ordinances. Loudoun has the same rule against congregate facilities in residential zones.
Fairfax and Loudoun Zoning documents, including Newport's initial inquiry, Loudoun's Determination, Loudoun Zoning's BZA filing, and the State Supreme Court decision that Fairfax neighbors HAVE standing - all are public record and here for your reference. *Please note: Newport listed youth aged 12-17 on their inquiry, but has updated the use for the Gleedsville/Leesburg campus to adults aged 18-28.
In addition to what Fairfax has already determined was a zoning misuse, we are concerned that this company will saturate and fundamentally alter the area as they have elsewhere.
Newport initially purchased two homes in a Orange Park Acres, California and now operate out of 12, despite pleas from the community (see the PDF article below for full details). As mentioned in the article, deep pockets of a private equity backed company allows them to easily outbid anyone looking to purchase a home, even amidst a housing shortage in a competitive market.
Loudoun residents fighting this planned corporate endeavor do not want to see this county meet the same fate as Orange Park Acres and likewise, residents in Orange Park are passionate about helping us ensure that our zoning laws prohibiting congregate facilities are enforced.
The following information and articles highlight the objections of residents in McLean, VA to Newport purchasing four homes in 2018. Additionally, Newport purchased two homes across the street from one another on Plantation Drive in Great Falls.
Davidson Road, McLean, Fairfax County, VA
The residents on Davidson Road, where Newport purchased a row of three homes and began setting up operations for 24 clients (sound familiar?), were successful in getting Newport to relocate after Fairfax Zoning was made aware, did a site visit, and determined that the homes were being used as a "congregate facility". Fairfax allows that use in residential zones with a special permit but Newport did not pursue it, they sold the homes. Loudoun County does not offer a special permit to allow congregate facilities in AR-1 residential zones, it is simply not a permitted use.
Kurtz Road, McLean, Fairfax County, VA
Neighbors on Kurtz Road, were told by their BZA and Circuit Court that they had no standing and should not be heard. They took their case to the Virginia State Supreme Court and on May 26, 2022 that court reviewed all details before confirming that Kurtz Road residents HAVE standing and would be impacted by living next to a Newport facility. The court's finding requires Fairfax Circuit Court to finally hear and rule on the merits of their case. They anticipate the hearing to place in the fall of 2022. Despite this, Loudoun County maintains that neighbors objecting to the Gleedsville Road 3-home campus have no standing and would not be affected.
"Rehab Company Faces Widespread Community Backlash Over Planned McLean Facility" Published April 25, 2019 by the Tysons Reporter
"Newport Academy does not act like a good neighbor" Published May 17, 2019 by Fairfax County Times
Protect Loudoun views Newport's for-profit intention to again target three adjacent residential zoned homes for a 24 adult commercial facility as being harmful, intentional and driven by an agenda to set the precedent to utilize residential homes vs commercial zoned facilities. They have the means to operate a commercial treatment facility from a commercial zone - but they have chosen not to, stating at the BZA hearing on April 28, 2022 that the serene neighborhood setting residents have created will make a great location for their business, even mentioning that they enjoyed hearing the wind chimes from a neighboring yard - confirmation of how well sound travels in a rural zone.
In addition to the misuse of operating a congregate facility out of residential homes, we believe that their stated intention to operate as by-right "separate single-family-dwellings" is an incorrect interpretation of Virginia State Code 15.2-2291. Newport is claiming its 8 clients per house, plus staff, is a “Family”. We don't believe this use is consistent with the intention of the zoning code or State laws.
Virginia State Code Section 15.2-2291, states: “Zoning ordinances for all purposes shall consider a residential facility in which no more than eight individuals with mental illness, intellectual disability, or developmental disabilities reside, with one or more resident or nonresident staff persons, as residential occupancy by a single family….[M]ental illness and developmental disability shall not include current illegal use of or addiction to a controlled substance.”
This provision allows for residency but should not be read to require commercial treatment uses in residential zones, usurping local zoning laws to do so and providing greater allowances and less restrictions to a corporation over other residents who abide by strict business limitations that prohibit everything from client visits to number of staff permitted per day.
Loudoun residents are uniting, adding more neighbors each day as awareness spreads. Please sign the petition linked below, donate, make your neighbors aware, join us at an event, and help keep companies from operating commercial facilities in Loudoun residential neighborhoods.
A small town with a Newport facility had 110 911 calls for the location in 2021 alone. They brought media awareness to the public disturbances they live with.
If you join us in objecting to this misuse of residences in Loudoun County, PLEASE sign and share this petition. This is a way for residents to state their opposition to for-profit companies operating commercial treatment facilities out of residential neighborhoods.
The Loudoun Board of Supervisors can be emailed as a whole at email@example.com
Delegate Wendy Gooditis
Loudoun County Board of Zoning and Planning, firstname.lastname@example.org
Individual emails for Board Members and their Staff Aides, as well as for Zoning Board Members, can be found at Loudoun.gov
Now that the BZA hearing resulted in a dismissal, Circuit Court is the only option. We need legal funds, please donate if you can.
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