Despite months of neighborhood protests, Alexandria's first permanent group home for the mentally ill will open by May 1, city officials said yesterday.

The $153,500, five-bedroom house at 1521 Dogwood Dr. was approved Saturday as an appropriate site for selected mentally ill adults on a 6-to-0 vote by the City Council, with council member Carlyle C. Ring absent.

The council's vote on the special use permit needed to operate the home followed a recommendation by the Planning Commission.

Many neighbors of the North Ridge house in the city's northeast corner objected to living near former patients of mental institutions, saying they feared for their children's safety and falling property values.

"When I'm ready to sell my house, I'm going to have problems," said Wilson M. Morgan, who lives next to the house. "I have a daughter, and I'm kind of concerned about her."

Rosalind Bovey, president of the North Ridge Citizens' Association, said most area homeowners understand the need and responsibility to house the mentally ill. Still, Bovey said, they preferred that the group home be in a "transitional area -- residential on one side and commercial or institutional on the other" instead of in the middle of a dense residential neighborhood.

Mental health officials argued that a home that was affordable, had five bedrooms and was for sale was so rare they could not reject the Dogwood Drive site.

"We're pleased [that it will soon open] and we hope to work with the neighbors," said Judith E. Krasnow, director of the Mental Health Center.

Krasnow said that a neighborhood advisory committee will be formed and tours of the home set up.