|An overflow crowd at the MDLUC meeting.|
Local residents are concerned about the loss of outdoor recreational space, the quality of life for seniors, crime, the safety of children, and the possibility that what is supposed to be a temporary shelter will end up being permanent.
The county wants to move the shelter from its current site on Moncure Avenue in Bailey’s Crossroads to make way for an apartment building to be developed by AvalonBay. The shelter relocation is part of a land swap approved by the Board of Supervisors in February to facilitate redevelopment in Bailey’s Crossroads.
The relocation of the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter to Lincolnia is supposed to be temporary solution – for four to six years – until the county can find a permanent site for an expanded shelter that would include transitional housing.
“That effort is actively going on. We are looking at a number of sites,” and the land acquisition staff is making contact with property owners. said Katayoon Shaya, in the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services.
|The field behind the Lincolnia Senior Center.|
The funds for a permanent shelter would come from a bond referendum that would have to be approved by voters. If the bond fails to pass, she said, the county would use an alternative funding source, such as economic development bonds.
The 6,000 square-foot temporary building will have 50 beds. Construction would begin this fall, and the facility could be ready for occupancy by late spring or summer of 2017. A number of security features, such as cameras, an access control system, breathalyzers, and regular patrols, would be implemented.
“Shelters are necessary in our community to protect vulnerable people,” said Dean Klein, director of the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness. A third of the people served at the Bailey’s shelter are over age 51, and many have chronic health issues. The emphasis is on finding transitional and permanent housing as soon as possible, he says.
The county’s homeless shelters bar clients during the day – they are supposed to be working, looking for jobs, or taking care of health needs. But Klein said the county is changing that policy in response to community concerns and would allow the temporary shelter in Lincolnia to stay open during the day.
The MDLUC did not vote on the shelter proposal. It will do so before the Fairfax County Planning Commission holds a public hearing on it, said committee chair Daniel Aminoff. The MDLUC will determine whether to endorse the project at its next meeting, on June 28, but its recommendations are not binding.
The Planning Commission hearing is currently scheduled for July 13, although it could be delayed. A vote is not likely to be posted to another meeting after the hearing.
Because the shelter project is proposed by the county, not a private developer, the final decision will be made by the Planning Commission, rather than the Board of Supervisors, said Chris Caperton, chief of the Facilities Planning Branch in the Department of Planning and Zoning.
In a presentation on the county’s “2232 review process” for public facility proposals, Caperton said his office is preparing a staff report – with input from various county agencies – that will include a determination of whether the proposal is in conformance with the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
The report, to be available online by mid-June, will consider such issues as whether the proposed project fits in with how the property is zoned, how it will look to nearby residents, and the impact on traffic, Caperton said. It will not discuss alternative sites for the shelter.
Deborah Fraser, a Lincolnia resident who spearheaded the “Stop the Shelter” campaign, called the relocation proposal “an artificial problem of the county’s own making.” As part of what she calls an “ill-advised land swap” with AvalonBay, the county will incur a monetary penalty if the shelter is not moved from its current location by next March.
While Shaya said the shelter would only take up part of the field behind the Lincolnia Center, Fraser predicted the homeless would likely congregate on the remaining open space.
The project would “destroy the only open green space within a one-mile radius,” she said. “The loss of that recreational resource will diminish the quality of life for seniors, children, and the entire community.”
Among other issues cited by Fraser:
- The county’s security assessment acknowledges the risk of crime.
- The relocation will create an unnecessary disruption for the homeless; it will “be like a prison” for them.
- It will lead to increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic in an already-congested area.
- The 2232 process fails to consider the “forced interaction of two at-risk vulnerable populations – the homeless and seniors.”
- There is a lack of transparency; the county should inform the public about why other sites have been rejected.
|Michael Blaine urges the Mason District Land Use Committee to reject the shelter relocation proposal. Deborah Fraser is standing to his right.|
Blaine also charged the proposal does not comply with the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which says shelters are not compatible with stable, residential neighborhoods.
Residents at the Lincolnia Senior Center won’t be able to use their field anymore and will be confined indoors, he said. He also questioned why the county is spending $2.1 million on a temporary building. “I don’t believe it’s temporary,” he said.
A resident who lives near Lincolnia Road spoke about how people with mental illness and substance abuse problems hang around the Bailey’s shelter. Her neighbor’s house was broken into, and there are prostitutes hanging around and used condoms on the ground. “We don’t want that in our community,” she said.
Debbie Smith, chair of the Mason District Council, said there’s a need for a shelter in Bailey’s Crossroads, but not in Lincolnia. She called it “wasteful and irresponsible” for the county to move the shelter before it finds a permanent location.
Several people at the meeting spoke about the value of providing services to the homeless, including one man who said he used to be homeless and appreciated the help he received. Someone else who volunteered with the homeless spoke about how the Bailey’s shelter was developed after a couple of homeless people had frozen to death.
Residents of Lincolnia responded that they don’t oppose the homeless and understand the need for a shelter for them; they just don’t want the shelter next door to their homes.
Blaine asked the MDLUC members whether they would want to live within 50 yards of a homeless shelter, whether they would want their parents to live that close, and whether they would buy a house within 50 yards of a shelter. If their answer is no, he urged them to reject the county’s proposal.