The Arlington County Board is expected to decide Saturday whether to allow Arlington Community Residences Inc. to buy and renovate a house at 5563 N. 16th St., for the operation of a group home for eight mentally retarded adults.
The group's request for a use permit to run the facility there has met with opposition from citizens of the Tara Leeway neighborhood, who in the last month have sent the board about 40 letters, some of them complaining that the area is over-saturated with group homes. A county planner estimated that the facility would be the 25th group home in the county and the seventh in the area bounded by Lee Highway, Glebe Road and Wilson Boulevard.
Last week, the county Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the permit. The board is scheduled to decide the matter Saturday.
Arlington Community Residences Inc., a private, nonprofit organization, runs a number of community programs in Arlington, including eight group homes for mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed county residents. The 10-year-old group operates on a budget of about $1.6 million annually, according to its director, Jill Gruver. Funding sources include the Virginia Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, the Arlington County Community Services Board, Medicaid and United Way.
Gruver said the group is seeking the use permit to move the residents of one facility that currently serves seven retarded adults at 5015 N. 10th St. to a larger and more private facility on North 16th Street. Gruver said the group decided to move last spring so that they could expand the program. Gruver also said that an incident involving a retarded resident, who wandered out of the 10th Street facility into a private home, created tension that put pressure on the group to move.
Gruver said the group would buy the property on 16th Street for $213,000 if the board approves the use permit. She said the group would expect to purchase the house in December, renovate it and begin operation by mid-January.
Gruver said the operating cost of the home would come to about $275,000.
The residents, eight men and women above the age of 18, would live in the house and spend their days at the Arlington Adult Developmental Center, where they would be supervised and receive some recreational and prevocational training, Gruver said.
She said the house would be staffed by seven to eight full-time people, with at least one person supervising the facility through the night and a minimum of two staffers supervising when the residents are home during the day hours.
But residents near the proposed facility say they are concerned, among other things, about the number of residents the facility would house.
"It's a little bit alarming in some ways," said Bruce Dale, who lives across the street. "I am concerned about the size of the house." Dale said he does not feel the residents would be a "dangerous group," but said he feels nonetheless that eight mentally retarded individuals is more than one or two staffers can handle easily.