Residents of the Fairhaven neighborhood, just south of Alexandria in Fairfax County, pleaded with the county's Redevelopment and Housing Authority last week to let them keep $120,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.
The block grant money was awarded to the area in July but the county is now threatening to withdraw it because of citizen unwillingness to accept the designation of Fairhaven as a Conservation District, and therefore a residential neighborhood, for the next 15 years.
According to RHA chairman, the Rev. Gerald Hopkins, the authority can now take one of three steps.
"We can say go ahead, continue the $120,000 grant in Fairhaven. Or we can recommend that the grant be reconsidered by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.Or we can recommend reallocating the money to another neighborhood."
RHA staff member Diedre Coyne said she expects the authority to make a decision on whether Fairhaven can keep its grant within the next two weeks.
The $120,000 had been earmarked for curb, gutter, and sidewalk construction as well as traffic lights.
At last Thursday's hearing, Fairhaven residents also asked that the authority allocate $50,000 during fiscal year 1979 for an engineering study of drainage, storm sewer, soil erosion, and water service needs in the area.
Fairhaven, with its 220 homes, qualifies for CDBG funds which are designated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for upgrading and improving low and moderate income neighborhoods.
But before the RHA, who allocates block grant funds in Fairfax county, will release the money, the agency said, it wants a commitment from Fairhaven residents to keep their neighborhood residential instead of letting it succumb to the pressures for development being exerted along U.S.1, its eastern boundary, and in the area of the Huntington Metro Station, being built to the north.
Last month, the Fairhaven Citizens Association rejected such a commitment by voting 94-51, against Conservation District status for the neighborhood.
As a conservation district, Fairhaven would be required to keep its current residential zoning for at least 15 years. Anyone wishing to change the zoning on a piece of Fairhaven property would be required to appear before the RHA to ammend the conservation district plan as well as go through standard county rezoning procedures.
By adopting conservation status for their neighborhood, Fairhaven residents would be able to secure home improvement loans through the county's Home Improvement Loan and Grant Program at interest rates up to 7 per cent, according to Coyne.
Coyne said HUD makes no requirement that CDBG funds go to conservation district neighborhoods, but the areas of the county receiving a high proportion of this year's $3.7 million in block grant funds are conservation districts. Huntington (a neighborhood contiguous to Fairhaven), Bailey's Crossroads) and the Lincoln-Lewis-Vannoy area near Route 123 and Braddock Road, are all conservation districts and have block grants.
According to Ron Carls, vice president of the Fairhaven Citizens Association, the block grant-conservation controversy has left the community united on only one thing. Everyone wants the $120,000 to use on street improvements, which they say would make their neighborhood safer.
On the conservation district matter, the neighborhood is severely split. Those who favor it say that a delegation from the citizen's association had been working with RHA staff on developing a neighorhood conservation plan since last January.
According to Barry Price, Fairhaven's liaison with the county government, a survey in Fairhaven a year ago indicated that 88 per cent of the residents favored the conservation district.
He said opposition to the idea developed swiftly and strongly in September.
"The conservation idea was misrepresented in the neighborhood." Price told the RHA during the hearing.
Mrs. Violet Taylor, outspoken opponent of the conservation district plan, told the RHA during last week's hearing that she was "totally opposed to the conservation plan. We should not have stringent rules and regulations as taxpayers."
"I think the people anymore have enough government control over their lives," another anti-conservationist, Barbara Schamblin said later. "I'm 100 per cent for keeping the neighborhood residential, but the government has enough to say over our lives."
Some of the seven authority members present at the hearing last Thursday night expressed skepticism over Fairhaven's commitment to retaining its residential character.
"We want see the (CDBG) money used to preserve housing," said Charles Luria. "It would be silly to spend $120,000 there and then have it ripped up for development."
Speakers from more than seven neighborhoods in the county appeared at the hearing asking for improvements to be made in their communities with next year's CDBG funds, which are expected to total $3.7 million. If Fairhaven loses its grant, the $120,000 would be added to that figure. CAPTION: Picture, Fairhaven, an area with many single-family houses, may be required to retain its residential zoning status in order to keep a $120,000 award of Community Development funds. By Linda Wheeler - The Washington Post