Almost five years after Fairfax County voters approved the project, officials have found a site for a county correctional center.

The facility, which officials said won't be a jail, was approved by voters in a 1981 bond referendum, but opposition from neighborhood groups has frustrated the search for a site.

Officials said yesterday they plan to build the facility alongside a proposed public safety academy on a 115-acre site next to Dulles International Airport.

Sheriff M. Wayne Huggins said the site is in an industrial neighborhood off Rte. 50 near the Loudoun County line, a location that should cause "minimal community impact."

"We're calling it right now a work-training center," said Huggins, noting that the center was designed to hold up to 100 people convicted of drunk driving. "I'm not going to sit here and say that out of 100 there might not be one shoplifter."

County Board Chairman John F. Herrity said the plan sounded like "a drunk tank." But he said he wanted to hear more about the plan. "We have an obligation to sit back and wait . . . . "

It won't be objectionable, the sheriff said. "I go to church right there in Chantilly," said Huggins. " . . . It's in my neighborhood."

Huggins said the proposal grew out of mutual needs of the police department and his office, which runs the county jail. The sheriff said that he and others had drafted a proposal for an "intense" rehabilitation program for drunk drivers and decided the $7.4 million from the bond referendum might be "a more prudent" way to finance the facility.

There are 40 to 60 persons in the county jail convicted of drunk driving, he said, and that number is expected to rise under tougher drunk driving laws expected to be approved by the Virginia General Assembly.

Officials had hoped to announce the plan in mid-March after they had a chance to reassure residents near the site, Huggins said, but "dribs and drabs" of the plan became public after $4.2 million was included in the county's proposed 1987 budget for site acquisition and planning.

"It's not a jail," said Richard A. King, deputy county executive for public safety. King said the joint venture was "a matter of timing" because officials were searching for a location for the academy.

The academy would include an administrative and classroom building, a firearms range and a driver training classroom. Public safety workers currently receive training at various places inside and outside the county.

Huggins noted that the proposal will be aired at several hearings and must be approved by the Fairfax County Board.

Most nearby residents were taking a wait-and-see attitude yesterday.

Milton F. Davenport, president of the Pleasant Valley Community Association, said that he was eager to hear more about the plans for his neighborhood. "Although on the surface it appears to be unobtrusive . . . I need to know as much as I can," he said.

"If they get in, what's to prevent them" from changing the makeup of the correctional facility? Davenport asked. "How can they give me that warm fuzzy feeling?"

Barbara Horsman, president of the Dulles Meadows Citizens Association, said she wasn't opposed. "I've lived near [the state-run correctional] Camp 30 all my life. We have to have somewhere for these facilities."

Huggins said it would be about two to three years before the facilities would be operational. He said the costs would be offset by those in the program who would perform community service and would pay a user fee of about $10 a day to participate in the program.

The first hearing is scheduled before the County Planning Commission on April 10, Huggins said.