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Residents surprised, upset after teen drug rehab center buys three McLean homes

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 4/10/2019 Peggy Fox
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The McLean community was surprised by the purchase of three luxury homes now being converted into a high-priced teen drug rehab center. Concerned about safety and traffic, neighbors are now trying to stop the center from receiving a state license to operate.

"It all was done under the radar and all of a sudden the bomb dropped and we've all been scrambling ever since," said Sue King who lives behind the three luxury homes. They are secluded on a pipe-stem driveway off of Davidson Road, a block away from McLean High School.

a car parked in front of a house: McLean home purchased for treatment center © Peggy Fox McLean home purchased for treatment center

The homes were recently purchased by Monroe Operations, which operates Newport Academies.  Located across the country, Newport academies are expensive residential treatment centers for teenagers suffering from drug addiction or mental illnesses. 

a screenshot of a social media post: Newport Academy © Peggy Fox Newport Academy

"Certainly all of us in this community believe that it's important that there's treatment facilities for young people in particular who have problems.  None of us are against that," explained Marc Lampkin, who lives up the street from the homes. The neighborhood got concerned when they saw a parking lot going in. The homes were not for sale on the open market, but were sold behind-the-scene, without notice to the community. 

"They did it without any disclosure, without any understanding," said Lampkin. 

a sign on the side of a road: Davidson Road © Peggy Fox Davidson Road

Monroe's CEO says each home will have eight residents and six staff. For the neighborhood, traffic is a concern on the two lane road. So is safety.

"Our property values. The safety because these kids escape and they get into trouble," said King.

That apparently happened last year at the Newport Academy in Bethlehem, Connecticut. The community had several complaints about the treatment center's handling of its troubled teens.

"You'll find them laying in the middle of the road, stealing cars. Escaping all over town," said Bethlehem resident Cynthia Radauskas. 

a house covered in snow: Newport Academy in Bethlehem, Connecticut © WFSB Newport Academy in Bethlehem, Connecticut

Monroe Operation's CEO Jaminson Monroe says those incidents are extremely rare.

"We are always looking to improve our processes protect our kids and respect the communities which we serve. Newport Academy has grown and developed over the past ten years. We have learned and adopted new protocols in response to challenges we have faced," said Monroe in a statement. 

In McLean, concern is not just surrounding those three homes, but also a fourth one on Kurtz Road, also purchased by Monroe Operations.

So how does a drug rehab facility, whether it's one home or three, pop up in a community without getting permission from the county and the zoning changed?

The Fair Housing Act makes is unlawful to discriminate against people with disabilities, or handicaps. Courts have ruled that former substance abusers qualify as having a handicap.

Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust says Monroe Operations did not tell the county about their plans. He says the company took advantage of a loophole by purchasing three homes. 

"Instead of putting these people into a residential community he's taking a residential community and converting it into an institutional use by lining up three houses next to each other," said Foust.  

Monroe says there is no loophole. "Our permitting process was the same as any other permitting process. We followed the zoning ordinances exactly. Each home will be licensed separately," said Monroe in a statement. "We have and will continue to follow all necessary regulatory guidelines put forth by the State of Virginia."

Lampkin disagrees. "It really just drives a giant truck through the loophole of what a group home is. I think people can certainly tolerate or embrace your one home, your eight residents that blends in with the community. This is clearly, in our minds, a commercial activity."

The neighbors opposed to the treatment facility are planning to hire a zoning attorney to help fight the facility. Others in the community say a treatment center for teens is desperately needed. 

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