Council Approves Plan to Reduce Noise on Follin Lane
FBI's Terrorist Screening Center in Vienna will stop use of cooling fan system completely, construct new units by April.
Vienna residents who live in the neighborhoods surrounding Follin Lane will soon find their nights to be quieter than they have been in years.
The Vienna Town Council approved a site revision Monday to the Terrorist Screening Center at 801 Follin Lane that will cease operation of its cooling fan system, a 23-unit, 230-fan force — each unit as big as a medium-sized conference room — that had wreaked havoc on those within earshot since September 2010.
The center will replace the units with two 12-foot by 18-foot cooling towers, surrounded by a 22-foot-2 sound dampening screen that should keep residents from knowing when the fans are even turned on.
The units, which will operate on a water-cooled system, will also be placed at the southeast corner of the building, according to town documents — on the "opposite side of the building from the residential areas that have been affected by the noise from the roof-top dry-cooler units."
Planning and Zoning Director Greg Hembree, who has worked closely with residents to find a solution to the issue, told residents he would authorize "conditional town approval" for the permit application for the project after Monday's meeting.
Contractors expect the project — and relief — to come by early April.
Afterward, the rooftop coolers would only be used if both of the new water-cooling towers were to fail.
The vote marks the end of a two-and-a-half year fight between resident Ken Foley, his neighbors and the town to stop the noise from the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, which potentially also houses some parts of the Department of Homeland Security.
When the center — a technology-heavy, 24-hour operation that needs to stay running even through power outages and severe weather — would turn on the units, they would emit a buzz that extended beyond the property; a steady drone that stretched for several streets and several hours into the night.
Residents — and town officials who had grown frustrated with the lack of progress — said it was officials from the Bethesda-based Goldstar Group, the owners of the building, who "dragged their feet" on responding to concerns and seem to show an indifference to solving them.
This summer, "the Director of the Liberty Park facility became personally involved" and "assigned a specific staff member with the task of implementing a solution."
The center held a number of meetings at the site with residents this fall, laying out plans and progress, and last month, a permit and construction schedule.
Vienna's Board of Architectural Review and Planning Commission worked to endorse the plan before it was approved by council Monday night.
Foley, who led neighbors in the charge asking for a solution, said in an email Monday night he supported the new plan, noting "all we can do is hope that what they stated is indeed the case and that we will not have to listen to those confounded high velocity fans ever again once this new system is up and running."
"Thank you, everyone, for your continued support in this quest. It has been a long road, but I think I’m getting a glimpse of the 'promised land' just off in the not-too-distant future. Let’s hope that the promise rings true," he wrote.