The Arlington County Board adopted guidelines last night for the development of the Virginia Square Metro stop area designed to preserve the residential character of the area and emphasize cultural, educational and recreational themes.

As part of the plan, the board approved an effort to retain a major supermarket in the area--a chief goal of the dozens of speakers from the Virginia Square area who attended last night's four-hour hearing.

"To deprive us of a supermarket would cut our lifeline. It would be tantamount to cutting off our life-support system," said Dorothy Sticken, an area resident who emphasized the dependency of elderly residents on a supermarket within walking distance.

A Giant Food Store is currently in the Virginia Square Shopping Center, which relies for customer parking on a six-acre lot owned by the George Mason University Foundation.

Both the foundation and the shopping center's owners have unofficial future development plans that neighbors contend threatens their lifestyles because the plans do not include any supermarket on the 14-acre tract they share.

The tract is bordered by Fairfax Drive, Washington Boulevard, Kirkwood Road and N. Monroe Street.

County Attorney Charles G. Flinn told the board it legally could not require future developers of the tract across from the Fairfax Drive Orange Line Metro Stop to include a supermarket. That tract is the only parcel in the area slated for the kind of high-rise development common to other Metro stops in the area.

"Since we don't have the stick to do it," said Board Chairman Ellen M. Bozman, striking the theme of the evening, "we are going to have to find the carrots to do it."

The "carrot" offered in a motion by board Vice Chairman John G. Milliken was adoption of a policy encouraging the inclusion of a supermarket, cultural center or additional residential development on the tract in return for additional density for office buildings.

Milliken's motion passed 4 to 1, with board member Walter L. Frankland Jr. dissenting. The motion puts a lower cap on the amount of office building density that developers would be allowed to build there unless they include one or more of those three objectives.

"This will allow the county greater latitude in inducing a particular developer to bring in one or more of the various community elements we want to have there," Milliken said.

The board's action did not appease Kenneth J. Ingram, president of the Ballston-Clarendon Civic Association, which encompasses the Metro station area.

"The vote . . . putting a cultural center on the same level as a supermarket was a betrayal of the community," he said. "There has been no demonstrated need for a cultural center and the board has created the possibility where our senior citizens will be sold out and not protected . . . . Any density bonus should have been designed to assure a supermarket."