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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

An open letter to Mason District residents on the homeless shelter relocation

The following open letter to the residents of Mason District was written by Deborah Fraser, Kathy Hoyt, Lynn Bostain, Christine Trapnell, and Carol Turner, who oppose Fairfax County's plans to relocate the Bailey's Crossroads Community Shelter to a site at the Lincolnia Senior Center. This piece reflects the views of the authors, not the Annandale Blog.

The county wants to relocate the Bailey's Crossroads homeless shelter to this field behind the Lincolnia Senior Center.
On Tuesday, June 28, the Mason District Land Use Committee (MDLUC) will vote on whether or not to endorse the proposed relocation of the Bailey’s Crossroads homeless shelter to the field behind the Lincolnia Senior Center

At various public meetings, Fairfax County has outlined several justifications for this transition, including the immediate need to pursue a redevelopment opportunity, the superior qualifications of the senior center as a “temporary” site, and the difficulty of finding a permanent location.

Through our research we have discovered that much of this information is inaccurate. In actuality, the redevelopment has been stalled for some time, the Lincolnia Senior Center is the worst possible site choice based on the county’s own criteria, and the identification of a permanent site is slow only because the county is not actively pursuing it.

We have also learned that the AvalonBay rezoning application, which is currently on indefinite deferral, will only be re-opened upon approval of the relocation proposal. In other words, for the redevelopment to move forward, the shelter relocation is the first domino that must fall.

At the May 24 MDLUC meeting, our community coalition presented our objections to the shelter relocation. 

In terms of land use, the proposed relocation violates all planning objectives in the Lincolnia Comprehensive Plan, particularly: destruction of an existing open space/recreational area, incompatibility of the shelter with residential use, and the placement of a 46-bed, 6,000-square foot building behind the senior center which will result in an overbuilt lot that does not protect or enhance existing neighborhoods with similar density and intensity. 

It is clear to the community that the Comprehensive Plan never envisioned this type of unprecedented and discordant use.

Fairfax County’s pro forma application includes a “2232 public facilities review process,“ a document that provides physical details of the plan and a project justification. The county has identified the building and site costs to be $2.1 million. What concerns the community is that the county is treating the relocation strictly as a real estate transaction without any consideration of the impacts or risks to the people involved. 

In fact, the proposed relocation is, first and foremost, all about people. Key elements of our objections to the relocation are the risks and consequences to the residents who live nearby and to the at-risk seniors and homeless people.

The Lincolnia Senior Center is home to 80 fragile and infirm residents and up to 200 more daily participants in the Adult Day Health Care and Recreation Center. A “best practices“ document published by the American Planning Association (APA) recognizes the dangers of co-locating at-risk populations, such as seniors and the homeless. APA recommends that homeless shelters be placed more than 2,500 feet from residential areas, schools, and group living facilities. 

Contrary to those recommendations, the proposed site for the relocated shelter will be on the senior center’s property, meaning it will have zero offset, which could jeopardize the health and welfare of the seniors. 

Also, the senior center will have to adopt a security system that will be disruptive to the care of its clients and will severely restrict their movements. Furthermore, the seniors will lose the green space behind the center which is necessary for exercise and for intergenerational interaction with the community. How can we ask the seniors for sacrifices of this magnitude at this stage of their lives?

The homeless will also lose from the relocation. The proposed shelter will have a security system – recommended by the county in its “Facility Security Assessment” – that will be equivalent to a maximum security prison with six-foot perimeter fences, 24-hour armed patrols, exterior lighting, and lockdown. The homeless deserve a permanent shelter in a location consistent with “best practices” that will not require such extreme security measures and that will maintain the proper offsets from other at-risk populations. 

The proposed relocation serves neither the homeless, nor the seniors, nor the surrounding community. Our neighborhoods will have to consider mirroring the same security measures, and they will also have to cope with the stigma of a prison-like facility next door. 

This relocation will permanently destroy the green space at the Lincolnia Senior Center, denying the center residents and the community a place for outdoor activities and exercise. This green space is recognized as a “community recreational resource” in the Comprehensive Plan. It has been preserved and protected for more than 30 years, and it is the only recreational area in the vicinity, as the nearest parks are almost a mile away. The value of the green space to the seniors and to the area residents is immeasurable and should be preserved.

It is clear to the community that nobody will benefit from the proposed relocation. Everyone will lose. We have already recommended that the MDLUC and the Planning Commission oppose this application, based on land use incompatibility, and we request that both entities consider the enormous negative consequences to our seniors, the homeless, and our community. 

The authors represent a community coalition of 1,500 homes and 3,000 residents in the Lincolnia area that oppose the shelter relocation. Deborah Fraser is a principal of the organization, Kathy Hoyt is a long-time volunteer at the senior center, Lynn Bostain is president of the Seminary West Civic Association, Christine Trapnell is a former Mason District supervisor, and Carol Turner is on the board of the Mason District Council of Community Associations.

36 comments:

  1. "APA recommends that homeless shelters be placed more than 2,500 feet from residential areas, schools, and group living facilities. "

    Is not the existing homeless shelter in Baileys within 2500 feet of residential areas?

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    1. Seriously. 2,500 feet is almost half a mile. While I don't think the shelter should be placed directly adjacent, literally, to the senior center, suggesting that a homeless shelter should be isolated half a mile from any other signs of life is insulting and ridiculous.

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    2. Most all the "concerns" with having a shelter close by also apply to the Bailey's location. And it's been there 30 years, now it's another locations turn.

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    3. insulting and ridiculous is correct and so is the whole above letter.

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    4. The County has no standards, that's the problem here. At the May 24th public meeting they offered 500 feet as common practice but this relocation, which will be on the Senior Center property, violate even that offset.

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    5. While a mile away might not be an option, don't you think there is a better location in all of Mason District for a "temporary" shelter than literally the backyard of the senior center/residence. And, with all of the vacant buildings near Rte. 236 and on Columbia Pike, it really is senseless to take up the only recreational field available to this community for a shelter.

      Location matters and this location is unfair not only to the seniors but to the homeless as well. The shelter will both look and function as a prison-like facility. If the Board of Supervisors really cared about the homeless as they claim, they would find a location for the shelter where the homeless could live with with dignity. Penny, et al., are doing what is easy not what is right.

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    6. A big difference is that the Bailey's shelter was a product of a coalition of community leaders, church leaders, landowners, residents, business owners and government officials. They worked together to decide upon the Moncure location because they wanted the shelter in Bailey's. The opposite is true here. Only Penny and the Board of Supervisors want to relocate the shelter behind the senior center. The Board is not even attempting to work with the various members of the Lincolnia community because legally they have no such obligation.
      Again the bigger point is do you really believe the backyard of a senior residence is a good place, much less the best place, for a homeless shelter? Even if you disagree with most of the letter, certainly you would conclude that the backyard of a senior residence is not an appropriate location for the shelter, and the homeless deserve a shelter that isn't prison-like. Because the Board is picking an inappropriate location both the seniors and the homeless lose.

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  2. http://sex-offender.vsp.virginia.gov/sor/executeZipSearch.html Zip code 22041. Notice how many sex offenders have the current Bailey's address as their home of record.

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    1. Wow, 5 sex offenders, including a rapist and a child porn distributor, could be moving to my neighborhood. Check it out: 3525 Moncure Ave, Falls Church, VA 22041 @ http://sex-offender.vsp.virginia.gov

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    2. they probably live there now. calm down.

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    3. 40 sex offenders are already in the Senior Center's zip code (22312), according to the registry.

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    4. How many of the sex offenders are currently living in the senior's backyard?

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  3. In fairness, the security measures are due to "perceived threats" not actual threats. That means a big chunk of this money is being wasted because some people are afraid of people for being poor and homeless. Spoiler alert- NOT A CRIME. We could spend that money on helping instead of fear based actions.

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    1. It would be better for all parties if it were located in a commercial area with adequate public transportation. Here is one such, at the leesburg pike/columbia pike intersection.

      https://www.redfin.com/VA/Falls-Church/5730-Columbia-Pike-22041/home/44561457

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    2. Nobody has suggested that being poor or homeless is a crime. It's the County's own security assessment that recommended the $300,000 in security upgrades in order to colocate the shelter and senior center. Perhaps the fact that such security measures are deemed necessary simply supports the rational conclusion that the two facilities should not be next-door neighbors.

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  4. Please explain the following statement:

    "The authors represent a community coalition of 1,500 homes and 3,000 residents"

    Have 3,000 individuals joined the coalition? Is it that 3,000 individual residents have signed a petition put out by the coalition? Or is it 1,500 homeowners who have formally joined and are members in the coalition?

    OR - are the authors just claiming they 'represent' 3,000 residents just because these four individuals are involved in civic associations in the area?

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  5. Tina Trapnell6/22/16, 5:15 PM

    One point that must be emphasized is the proposed shelter location's distance from medical and social services.

    The Baileys Shelter was specifically located within an easy bus ride and walking distance of clinics and social services which have since been moved to Merrifield and Heritage Drive in Annandale.

    Unless the Shelter model has changed and those services will be provided on site, the proposed location would require an even further distance for the residents to travel

    The question that those of us who signed the letter have asked is: Will this proposed move
    benefit the shelter residents, the senior citizens who live in and visit the Center and the surrounding residential community?

    We believe for all the reasons mentioned that the answer is no.

    In case my interest is questioned, I have a long history with both programs having been the staff person in Tom Davis'office assigned to working with the County and community in establishing both the Shelter and the Senior Center. I served on for several years and chaired for 12 years the Advisory Committee at the Shelter

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    1. Well I wish the County would move it to some other place that benefits the homeless and gets it away from senior center while keeping the prospect of redeveloping the 30 year eyesores in Baileys: vacant stores, open fields, an abandoned auto body shop, a vacated DMV, a make believe 7 eleven and a Safari memorial to a murder.

      My question to Tina Trapnell, why was that area abandoned under your leadership? It is considerably better now since Gross has been in office but still a blighted disaster. With all of your influence of position, why was that area left to decay, why have you not helped to revitalize the SE Quadrant and why do you continue to be an obstacle?

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    2. Do you know that Tina was supervisor over 20 years ago. Penny has had 20 years to clean it up. The mess that is Bailey's was on Penny 15 years ago. Cleaning up most of the devastation of WWII was done in less than 10 years.

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    3. Actually that was easier. It was rubble, often in central cities, and no expense was spared. We have to make it profitable for a landowner to replace an existing revenue generating use, and have to deal with all the limits on development, and in the face of competition from other areas.

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    4. Wait for it...its Bush's fault.

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    5. Im sorry but I don't agree with you Anon 9:35 AM. When Gross took office, Baileys was a mess. Where the chicken place is now was a junk furniture store with a dirt parking lot, and none of the houses or the one story retail lined the street. It was open lots, mud patches and one ugly place. The area has improved dramatically including a renovated landscape medium facelift, albeit not enough. Baileys still lags way behind the Arlington side of Columbia Pike. Baileys has had an anemic revival. It needs a major shot of Geritol, not more obstructionism and triple down economics, because all Baileys has been getting is drip drip.

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    6. To Anon at 9:02pm
      "My question to Tina Trapnell, why was that area abandoned under your leadership?" Gosh, let's think about this...maybe developers didn't find it enticing for the past 30 years because there is an adults-only homeless shelter there! Why do you think AvalonBay wants it gone?

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  6. This entire thing is based on the APPLICANT's assertion that the senior center location is the "best" location, because the applicant couldn't find any other suitable ones. The county doesn't investigate those claims, and, as of this date, we have ONLY the APPLICANT'S WORD that other locations were even investigated! We don't know WHERE those other locations were or WHY they were deemed to be unsuitable. And it is upon this lame basis that everything else is built. At the very least, we should be told what other locations were explored and why they were rejected.

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    1. Grace Charles6/22/16, 6:09 PM

      You've identified the worst part of 2232 application - the applicant can say whatever they want and the county has no duty - NO DUTY - to investigate the claims. It's up to those opposing the 2232 application to go out and do the leg work.

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    2. And I think that many of us would be willing to do that investigation, if we only knew WHICH properties were considered in the first place. As I understand it, the applicant claims that 22 properties, both private and commercial, were considered but WHICH properties, and why were they eliminated? For all WE know, the applicant may have "considered" the nearby 7-11, Annandale United Methodist Church, and Silverado restaurant -- none of which, obviously, would be serious considerations. How can we investigate, if we don't know what was considered in the first place? It's absolutely ludicrous, and yet taxpayers are supposed to just nod their heads "yes" and pay for all of this nonsense... I would like to know what the other options were, and have to wonder why were are NOT being TOLD. It ought to be simple information that's made available to the residents of Fairfax County, who are going to have to foot the bill for this. Why the secrecy? Where else did they look??

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    3. A good starting point would be Penny's campaign finance records.

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    4. Has anyone considered that some of the places looked at for the temporary shelter could possibly be locations for the permanent shelter? If so, it would be in the County's best interest not to release these sites.

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    5. Who believes that they are actually looking for a permanent location. County staff have admitted they are looking in their spare time. It's not a priority for them, because Penny has decided this is where it is going to go. County staff know if they fight her there will be hell to pay and their careers in jeopardy. She never forgets. BUT I firmly believe Penny has met her match with the Lincolnia residents. They are fighting like mothers for their cubs and it is the RIGHT thing to do. This move to smack dab in the middle of hundreds of residential units is not beneficial for anyone--the homeless to a temporary shelter with a six foot fence around it, residents with people they don't know walking around their backyards peering in, and the Lincolnia Senior Center, whose residents will no longer feel safe to walk on the field behind home. People this is crazy--we must stop Penny at least this one time please!!!

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    6. "Has anyone considered that some of the places looked at for temporary shelter could possibly be locations for the permanent shelter"

      We don't actually know if any other location was looked at, though. That's part of the point. And IF there were other locations considered and they are still under consideration for a permanent location, then why not just go ahead and build the permanent shelter?! The existing shelter at Bailey's could continue to house the homeless until a permanent shelter can be built at one of these "other" potentially-permanent locations, EXCEPT that the deal struck by our genius representative that will financially penalize us if the homeless haven't vacated the existing shelter by a certain date. It is all completely ridiculous and very difficult to swallow...

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  7. To Anonymous6/22/16, 9:02 PM

    Don't make Tina Trapnell a scapegoat for Penny's neglect of Mason District. Penny has had 20+ years to do something for us in the Southeast Quadrant. Even now her plans are not in keeping with the desires of her constituents. She seems incapable of understand our needs and wants. Either that or she simply doesn't care.


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    1. Don't make PG a scapegoat. Tina left the dinner table with a half baked loaf and Penny has been luke warm at finishing the job up at Baileys. But this constant bellyaching about new development is non productive. Regardless of who resides as supervisor this anti-growth obstructionist attitude will result in nothing but more blight and stagnation.

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    2. Residents don't object to growth, they just want smart growth. The BoS has revealed itself to amend and otherwise ignore its own comprehensive plan when it suits them. For instance, the BoS is eliminating the only greenspace within a mile of the Lincolnia Senior Center in order to put a "temporary" homeless shelter in the Senior Center's backyard. The BoS has never made the argument that this is smart or what's best for the surrounding community, but rather it is what's expedient. (The BoS claims it's under a time restraint that requires it to relocate Bailey's homeless shelter as quickly as possible because of the land deal it voluntarily entered with AvalonBay. But research reveals this is a self-inflicted time constraint, AvalonBay has said it is in no hurry and can wait to develop the Moncure property.) The BoS knows that any development in the SE Quadrant, smart or otherwise, is impossible until the shelter is removed. So because they did not address the shelter issue in a timely fashion, they are now under a (self-inflicted) time crunch to relocate the shelter ASAP. They chose the Lincolnia Senior Center's backyard because (they thought) it was the path of least resistance. Sadly, the BoS, esp. Penny and Sharon Bulova have shown they have no interest in smart development, I could speculate as to their motives, but thus far all they say is it is urgent to relocate the shelter and the senior's backyard is the best alternative (which is as ludicrous on its face as it is when you actually dig into the issue).

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  8. Hookers on one side of the street, homeless on the other. What's senior to do?

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    1. I was waiting for the traffic light at Beauregard and Little River Turnpike to change yesterday, when I noticed a homeless woman with a sign walking up and down the median strip, asking for "contributions". If the "temporary" shelter is built in the proposed location, I think we need to brace ourselves for a parade of people with signs walking up to the car windows of a very captive population of drivers (commuters or parents running errands with their children), who will be trapped between a red light, a median strip, and impossibly heavy traffic to their right. That intersection is already a nightmare. What's it going to be like with the extra traffic that will transport the homeless to this area, and with the gridlock created by the potential solicitation of handouts from homeless residents approaching drivers trapped at the light? Just saying...

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    2. I have driven at the intersection of Beauregard and Rte. 236 at least once a day almost everyday for the last 14 years. Only in the last month have I ever seen someone on the Beauregard median asking for donations. If I was a bit more suspicious, I would think that such a presence might be construed as justification that the homeless shelter is needed at that location. But given how indisputably horrible the traffic already is at that intersection, a panhandler's presence only demonstrates the danger of adding any more congestion to the area--pedestrian or otherwise. (Read--no good will come of putting a temporary shelter in an already overbuilt and over-congested area, especially when done at the expense of the senior residents).

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