Early in World War II, a young Virginia doctor from the Shenandoah Mountains opened a family practice in Fairlington Villages, the Arlington development built by the government to house its army of wartime employes.
For the next 38 years, he treated patients there, moving to a second location in the development, and thn a third and building a practice of now-elderly patients, many of whom moved out when a conversion to condominium began in 1972.
But the days of Dr. Arthur Mitchell, 64, may be numbered now at 4801 S. 31st St., the condominium he rents for office space. The Fairlington Unit Owners Association has decided to oust him because its bylaws prohibit businesses on the premises.
Mitchell, who would not comment on his plight, was described this week by residents and a development official as an asset to the community.
Theo Hayes, who lives near the doctor's office, characterized him as a "kind, wonderful man" who befriended his older patients by keeping his rates down and who "would take you in two minutes if he had to."
Hayes said Mitchell will "probably be hurt" if he is forced to leave because "he helped so many people."
But the association's president, Hal Hovey, noted that the bylaws restrict the condominiums to residential use. "Obviously, there are some people who moonlight," he said, "But they have no customers. They might bring work home with them. Some people sell things."
But none but Mitchell generate traffic, Hovey said, although he acknowledged he had received no complaints from residents about excessive traffic near Mitchell's office.
A nine-member association beard, appointed by the condominium developer, CBI Fairmac, until last spring, had left Mitchell to his practice despite the bylaws.
"There wasn't any need at the time," said acting Fairmac president J. D. Lee. "After being here 36 years we didn't feel there was any need and the people in the community thought he was an asset. We didn't want to take the prerogative to say that he wasn't."
But in march the board was elected for the first time by the residents and the developer no longer had a say.
"The board found a number of situations to Hovey. "We're expected to operate in regard to the by laws."
Hovey also pointed out that the by-laws, which were instituted by the developer to maintain Fairlington's residential character, are buttressed by Arlington County doning laws.
A county doning official confirmed this week that businesses are not allowed in Fairlington, but Lee, the Fairmac executive, said that Mitchell has had a special permit exempting him from the law for years.
About two years ago a Fairlington resident ran afoul of the owner by-laws when he built a Williamsburg-style tool shed in his enclosed backyard and drew complaints from neighbors. The case wound up in court where the shed-builder was upheld.
The association has scheduled a hearing for Mitchell Wednesday.
According to Lee, Mitchell had planned to retire in a few years and hoped to work until then as a practitioner in Fairlington."I feel terrible about it," Lee said.
Added Hayes: "I don't think he's doing any harm. There's tons of other people in Fairlington I could complain about."