In the Ravenwood Park section of Fairfax County, where the cherry trees are turning the streets pink and where houses range in value from $70,000 to more than $150, homeowners say they think the idea of a suburban home for "disturbed" teen-agers makes sense.
It's just that they'd rather have the "therapeutic family home" in someone else's suburb, not next door. Now that six teen-agers with emotional and behavioral problems have moved in, hometowners in the neighborhood say they are upset. They are particularly upset, they say, because no one told them the youhts were coming.
The first time County Supervisor Alan H. Magazine (D-Mason) heard about the youths house in his district was when a contitutent drove up and asked Magazine what was going on and why Magazine did not try to stop it.
Without a public hearing and without notifying the neighbors, Environments for Human Services, an Airlington-based firm that provides care for problems teen-agers, rented a red brick house at 6209 Cherly Dr. in the Ravenwood park area on March 1. The area has quiet streets, well-kept homes and homeowners who say that when they invested their savings in the community they did not expect to have a halfway house for truobled youths as a neighbor.
"I'm selfish," said Alene Duerk, sitting in her home next door to the youths home. I'd rather not have that kind of place right next door. I'm not criticizing them, but I think we (the neighbors) should have been consulted before they moved in."
Duerk is one of more than 100 members of the Ravenwood Park Civic Association who met this week and decided to take "all lawful steps" to push the county zoning enforcement office requiring that the youths be moved elsewhere.
The administrative director of Environments for Human Services, John Bryant, who concedes that neighborhood residents did not have much information on the home when it was opened, said that neighbors only have legitimate reason for complaints if the house spoils the appearance of the neighborhood or if the teen-agers cause trouble.
Despite the neighborhood's protest against the home, people who live near it say that the teen-agers have not caused any problems expect for playing loud music one night.
"Everyone says it is a wonderful program - in another neighborhood," Bryant said.
"These aren't dangerous kids," he said. "They are deprived kids," he been abondoned or rejected by their parents." The teen-agers, who range in age from 13 to 18, are wards of the county who often have committed minor offenses, although not serious enough ones to force their detention in a juvenile home. Bryant's firm is paid by the county's Department of Social Services to take care of the teen-agers.
Neighborhood protests against residential homes for poeple other than normal families are not new in the Washington area.
Larry and Lois Kennedy moved into a $120,000 home in Silver Spring's. Three Meadows community last December with the first two or eight midly retarded persons they hoped to care for. But shortly after the new year, while the Kennedys slept, someone rammed a car into their garage and speed away, leaving a burning rag behind. Then two days later, someone fired a shotgun through their front window.
In Fairfax case, Magazine has sent a letter to County Excutive Leonard Whorton asking how such a home could be allowed into an area zoned for single-family detached homes. "We just can't have enough locating halfway houses without some community input," Magazine said this week.
According to Gilbert Knowlton, the county's zoning administrator, the home in Ravenwood Park does not violate zoning laws because the people who live there can be defined under zoning ordinances as a family. Part of that ordinance says a family is "a group of persons living together in a parent-child relationship whether adoptive parents, stepparents, foster parents or other similar such supervisory or protective relationship."
Knowlton said there was no public hearing or prior before Environments for Human Services moves in because the firm had the right to move "just like anyone."
Raymond Konan, president of the Ravenwood Park Civic Association and a Defense Department lawyer, claims the poeple at the home do not constitute a family because the supervisors taking care of the teen-agers work rotating shifts and do not live there.
Konan said that the youth home also violates a promise that each home buyer in the area signed when he moved in. The promise, called a restrictive convenant, says "no lot shall be used for residential purposes."
Konan and other neighbors claim that the homes, which is being run for a profit, constitutes a business and therefore does not conform to the covenant.
There are nine other such homes in Northern Virginia, seven in Arlington and two in Fairfax County near Fairfax Circle, Bryants said. He said complaints are similar everywhere when a new home is established. "Everyone is concerned with having six kids on the block without their parents," Bryant said.
The teen-agers are placed in good neighborhoods, Bryant explained, so they can live a life is as "normal as possible." Bryant said that four of the other homes for teen-agers in Arlington and Fairfax are in comparable neighborhoods.
Edward J. Martin Jr., who lives two houses away from the teen-ager home in a house that was last assessed at $72,500, he says he can understand how it might be difficult for the troubled teen-agers to locate in any nice neighborhood. "Yea, everybody says, 'I don't want them by me,'" Martin said. "But once you permit one expecption in the neighborhood, there goes the ball game. You can't block anything else."