Old Milk Barn - Cherri Drive - Pimmit Hills

Old Milk Barn - Cherri Drive - Pimmit Hills
Old Milk Barn - Cherri Drive - Pimmit Hills

Thursday, February 16, 2012

County's Group-Home 'Clients' CAN'T Be Placed Privately

CSB's Dirty Secret: That's why they're in county-run facilities!
Ankle Bracelet Chíc. Is Your Pimmit Hills Property's Value in Danger?
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plus 'Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board responds'
Yahoo! Pimmit Hills Moms Group
Yahoo! Pimmit Hills Moms and Dads Group
Vote in the 'Pimmit Hills Moms' Poll
Google Satellite Image:
1845 Cherri Drive (Milk Barn)
More Links below!
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What may soon be a common sight on Cherri Drive if CSB's 'halfway-house' gets built in Pimmit Hills.

Mark your calendar:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
Pimmit Hills Citizens Association Meeting to Vote on This Matter!
Pimmit Hills Senior Center
7510 Lisle Avenue
Falls Church, VA 22043
(Yahoo! Map locator)

By The Frace-Heller Family
Published: February 16, 2012
Updated: February 20, 2012

To All Pimmit Hills Moms and Dads,

The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board ("CSB") is refusing to provide a list of the locations of its halfway-house/group-home facilities, claiming that by doing so would somehow violate the civil rights of CSB's 'clients'. CSB officials have cited 'Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968' ("The Fair Housing Act"), as well as
the 'Health Information Privacy Protection Act' ("HIPPA"), which protects privacy of an individual's specific health information. We have attempted to get from CSB the specific citations within those respective Acts which CSB is claiming buttress their refusal to divulge the locations of what in essence are government-owned and/or government-operated buildings.

Surveying Neighbors in Other CSB Halfway-House Communities
The reason we think it is important to know actual addresses for Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board's halfway-house/group-home facilities in Fairfax County is so that Pimmit Hills taxpayers may have the opportunity to inquire of people -- neighbors -- who already live nearby such facilities. How does one go about surveying CSB's neighbors if one doesn't know the exact location of CSB's facilities?

Why the big secret anyway? Why do county officials have a problem with Pimmit Hills residents surveying fellow taxpayers who happen to be living beside CSB facilities? What is the problem asking friendly questions neighbor-to-neighbor about the appropriateness, desirability, and financial impact of having such a facility in one's midst? Remember, these CSB group-homes are caretaker facilities for persons Fairfax County is NOT able to place anywhere else and certainly not into private circumstances.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors ("The County") and the Community Services Board apparently expect Pimmit Hills residents to take officials' collective word that long-term impacts of a 24/7 CSB operation in Pimmit Hills would have negligible impact on residents, on the surrounding neighborhood, on quality-of-life, and on property values.

Accepting the County's 'Assurances'
Despite assurances given by County officials, The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has ultimate legal and political jurisdiction over whether proposed CSB projects go forward -- NOT the local communities into which these halfway-houses/group-homes are inserted.

This means, for example, that Pimmit Hills Citizens Association ("PHCA") members can take a vote on the matter, but such poll is only advisory and is not legally binding upon County officials.

PH residents are also being asked to accept County officials' 'guarantees' regarding the alleged 'permanent' number of CSB "clients" that will be residing within the premises, what the place will look like once built, and just how the operation will be run day-to-day. In its '2011 Housing Needs Report' ("The Report"), CSB defines "clients" as "people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or substance use disorders".

A big problem is that certain aspects of what county officials are presently telling the public make little or NO sense. For example, CSB claims in its Report that it is moving away from 'place-based' assistance -- meaning supervised group-homes and halfway-houses like the type being proposed for Pimmit Hills -- to a system whereby needed services are brought to CSB clients wherever they happen to be.

CSB's Report states that: "Instead of operating residential 'programs,' make supportive services independent from existing housing so clients can change service levels but retain their housing and vice versa." (SEE: Report: PDF pg. 4); and also that: "One key policy consideration will be 'de-linking‛ supportive services from existing housing." (SEE: Report: PDF pg. 24).

Yet, County and CSB officials are assuring everyone that the proposed Cherri Drive group home will be dedicated to providing full-time assistance to aging citizens in need of such assistance. Further, according to the Report, CSB's need for client housing is growing.

The Difficulty in Placing Many CSB 'Clients'
What is of greater significance, though, to Pimmit Hills residents is this: According to CSB's Report, it is extremely difficult to place CSB clients who have had "interactions with the criminal justice system" into privately-owned facilities. The same holds true for CSB clients with particular psychological illnesses that, if not consistently controlled, can result in violent or otherwise dangerous behaviors.

Therefore, government-run facilities, like the one proposed for Pimmit Hills, appear to be the only real option for persons for whom criminality, substance abuse, violence, or severe psychological problems have been a way of life. (Note: If CSB is allowed to build a halfway-house on Cherri Drive, how long before ankle bracelets are a common sight on CSB clients hanging-out around that facility on a sunny day?)

If there are no risk factors associated with the aging citizens we are being told would populate CSB's Pimmit Hills facility, then why are these people even being considered for placement in a secured government-run facility rather than in private facilities where they could just as easily and more economically be provided for with assistance services 'brought to them' as envisioned in CSB's Report, and paid for with CSB, state and/or federal subsidies?

The point we are trying to make is that if an otherwise well-behaved elderly or mentally-disabled CSB client is merely low-income and needs a place to live, there are private facilities into which CSB can place these persons, and the government (federal, state, local) provides subsidies that pay for it. The fact is private placement is preferred precisely because it is more cost-effective than having to maintain an individual in an expensive government-run facility.

A halfway-house/group-home like the one CSB is proposing for Pimmit Hills is going to end-up being for people who, even if elderly, are NOT able to be placed into private circumstances. It might be for reasons associated with those individuals having earlier in their lives had "interaction with the criminal justice system," or because they currently have severe drug addiction, or violent and/or psychotic and/or other anti-social behaviors.

Private placement for such individuals, elderly or not, is far more difficult to arrange because, frankly, private operators do not want to have to deal with such problematic individuals; they don't want the liability, the aggravation, the danger inherent in dealing with out-of-control persons with a history of violent, erratic, and/or psychotic behaviors. Would you?

Future Occupancy
Even assuming County and CSB officials' intentions are 'pure' right now, what happens in the future should there be budget constraints, 'belt-tightening,' changes in leadership, etc.? One cost-saving avenue the politicians may pursue, for example, might be placing CSB's elderly clients, the ones the Cherri Drive facility is supposedly geared to have, into more cost-effective private rentals, thereby freeing-up beds in the Pimmit Hills facility for the more 'problematic' (read: deranged or violent) clients needing the closer supervision and greater security the Pimmit Hills facility is scheduled to provide.

A similar scenario would have CSB doubling or tripling-up occupancy in its Pimmit Hills group-home, or even converting it to housing for ex-convicts and/or other potentially dangerous persons. Or worse, the county at some future date could decide to use CSB's institutional facilities as neighborhood settings for overflow 'non-violent' prisoners in pre-release from the County's possibly-overcrowded-in-the-future Adult Detention Center (formerly the County Jail).

CSB's Lack of Transparency; Failure to Provide Even Simple Architectural Drawings of Proposed Project
In a family-oriented neighborhood, due diligence to protect our children's safety is paramount. If the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and CSB have nothing to hide, then providing location information on CSB's other group-homes/halfway-houses around the county for the purpose of enabling our neighbors to interview their neighbors should not be an issue.
Transparency in a matter like this is everything.

Another curious aspect of the present proposal is that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and CSB have conveniently not bothered to present a simple architectural rendering of what is being proposed for the Cherri Drive site. So far nothing in the way even of rough drawings has been forthcoming. Yet, this glaring omission by county officials has not prevented them still from seeking community approval of CSB's proposal by asking Pimmit Hills Citizens Association officials to poll association members at the upcoming March 6th PHCA meeting. Isn't this a classic example of 'putting the cart before the horse'?

Some facts: The present Milk Barn measures 37 feet, 5 inches in depth (approx.) by 83 feet, 4 inches in length (approx.). These are the measurements we got using a surveyor's tape placed along the outer edge of the barn's cement block foundation. The Barn thus has a footprint of approximately 3,122 square feet. County and CSB officials are claiming that the proposed halfway-house/group-home will be a one-story structure with 4,000+ square-feet of usable living space.

A simple plot plan showing the proposed structure's footprint, setbacks, areas designated for parking, lighting, outbuildings, etc. would at minimum seem to be the politic thing to do for politicians and government officials claiming to be acting in good faith. Is it reasonable or even logical for officials to ask a local community to vote on a project potentially disruptive to quality-of-life in the neighborhood, and where long-term negative impact on property values is a near certainty -- and ask that all this be done sight-unseen of what the project is actually supposed to look like?

Handicap Accessibility and the 'Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990'
Regarding handicap accessibility: The 'Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990' ("ADA") is applicable to all government-paid-for construction and in the case of new construction requires that exterior and interior features be fully ADA-compliant.

In the case of new construction intended for dwelling and paid-for with taxpayer dollars, this means that every bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, hallway, and stairwell must be made fully ADA-compliant no matter the age or physical condition of those scheduled to be living on the premises.

There appears to be misunderstanding amongst the general public for just how far-reaching the requirements of ADA actually are. For example, we received just yesterday an email from a Pimmit Hills resident who follows local issues closely and who took the time to attend CSB's 'informational meeting' this past January 11th at Lemon Road Elementary School.

Here follows an excerpt from that email: "It doesn't make sense to me for the county to incur the expense of building a new-ADA compliant home for 6 elderly adults (as they are claiming they will do) just to turn around and use that home for people who have had interactions with the criminal justice system, but have no physical disabilities. I support the proposal to make the home an ADA-compliant residence for elderly disabled people with no criminal history."

Where the concerned email writer is mistaken is in the assumption that the County Board of Supervisors and CSB, once the decision has been made to construct a group-home, somehow have a choice in whether to build a fully-ADA-compliant structure or one that is either minimally or not ADA-compliant at all, in order of course to save the County the extra costs associated with building to full ADA standards. The writer also appears to presume that if the building were intended to house only persons in tip-top physical condition rather than those with disabilities, that ADA-compliance would then not be necessary at all and could even somehow be waived altogether, thus saving County taxpayers all that added ADA-related expense. The answer to all these eminently logical presumptions: Not so!

The fact is that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law, July 26, 1990, by Pres. George H. W. Bush, any and all new construction that is in any way paid for or subsidized by federal, state, or local government monies must -- repeat: MUST -- be made FULLY ADA-COMPLIANT. In the case of a residential structure paid for with government money, that means regardless of who the intended occupants are meant to be and regardless of whether or not any of those occupants actually have disabilities, the residence must still meet full ADA-compliance!

In the case of the group-home proposed for Pimmit Hills (or for any CSB-inspired residential construction anywhere in the county), that means that should the County Board of Supervisors opt to commit to the project, then Fairfax County and CSB are required, by law, to build the structure fully ADA-compliant, even if the new building is never once used by anyone with a physical disability!

Of course, this all seems counter-intuitive and incredibly wasteful of taxpayer dollars, but that is how the law is written -- and as the saying goes, "Write your Congressman". So, whether it's for old folks in wheelchairs or for 'former' M-13 gang-bangers capable of bench-pressing 350 pounds, any new residence that CSB builds is required to be fully ADA-compliant.

It also means that all things being equal, an elderly CSB client who is kindly and well-behaved, is not going to have any difficulty whatsoever being placed by CSB into ADA-compliant private circumstances, and that CSB is going to reserve its expensive security-focused accommodations like the one proposed at Cherri Drive, for those clients -- elderly or not, handicapped or not -- who CSB is unable to place anywhere else, and who therefore need to be living in closely-monitored, 'controlled' circumstances.

In re parking: Fairfax County's building code requires that there be vehicle parking on-site, NOT on-street, sufficient for the maximum number of persons expected to reside on the premises, along with parking spaces sufficient to accommodate all on-duty staff (24/7 for the proposed Cherri Drive facility), emergency vehicles, as well as visitors.

In the event CSB doubles or triples-up on occupancy in the coming years, more parking spaces per the code would have to be created on the parcel itself in order to accommodate that increased number of residents. Cherri Drive simply cannot handle that volume of street parking in addition to the needs of the taxpaying residents. It's very likely that if CSB gets the go-ahead on its proposal, that what is now a mostly grass-covered Barn site will end-up being one big parking lot with an out-sized institutional-looking structure set squarely in the middle or just to the rear.

Regarding the exterior of the proposed structure, county officials are silent on the subject of lighting. Right now, the Milk Barn is totally dark at night offering zero impact on the neighborhood's nighttime environment. The proposed new building and parking areas will no doubt be ablaze all night with the latest in high-tech lighting -- a glaringly charming addition to Cherri Drive, don't you think?

Impact on Property Values
On the matter of property values, let us be frank: What would a prospective home-buyer coming to Pimmit Hills be looking for? Is it a comfortable place amongst nearby homes with kids playing in yards, or is it living beside a government-run 24/7 care facility populated with institutionalized 'clients' from which neighborhood children are warned to stay far away?

For all these reasons, we believe it important for Pimmit Hills taxpayers to be able to survey families in neighborhoods where CSB's other care facilities are located. These other neighborhoods' folks are the ones who can be counted on -- not high-level County officials who likely live miles away from any of this -- to provide an unvarnished view of what it's like day-to-day living beside a CSB operation, and who also can be counted on to know whether or not their property values have been impacted.

Thanks to all of you for your time on this matter.

Sincerely yours,

The Frace-Heller Family
Pimmit Hills
Falls Church, VA 22043
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