A proposal to build a facility that would include a correctional center for persons convicted of drunk driving and other driving offenses was endorsed by the Fairfax County Planning Commission last night over objections of some people who would be its neighbors.
The $30 million facility proposed by county police and the sheriff's department for a 115-acre site off Rte. 50 near Dulles International Airport and the Loudoun County line also would have a training academy for public safety personnel.
The planning commissioners unanimously approved the project. A request for site plan approval now goes to the county Board of Supervisors.
Since it was proposed in February, county officials have tried to reassure those who live near the site that the facility would not be turned into a medium-security jail and would not bring problems associated with the District of Columbia's prison complex at Lorton or the state prison system's Camp 30, each of which has experienced escapes and disturbances.
Last night, three dozen citizens spoke for or against the project at a public hearing.
Among the opponents were a doubledecker-busload who arrived wearing name tags bearing the word PRISON, acronym for Private Residents Interested in Saving Our Neighborhood.
"It just scares us," said Milton Davenport, president of the Pleasant Valley Community Association, before the hearing. "Although we want to believe them, we see what happened at Lorton, we see what happened with Camp 30," said Davenport, whose neighborhood of 400 homes is about a mile from the site of the proposed facility. Some others who live near the site expressed similar concerns but supported the proposal with a few changes. Barbara Horsman, president of the Dulles Meadows Citizens Association, urged the board to change some wording in the plans to reflect its use strictly as a correctional facility for those convicted of alcohol-related traffic offenses.
The county Chamber of Commerce supported the project with the proviso that the county abide by a promise to limit the correctional facility to a maximum of 100 offenders. The chamber also endorsed using the facility for those convicted of shoplifting and nonsupport as well as driving offenses.
Sheriff M. Wayne Huggins said "I think we've bent over backward" in trying to reassure residents. "I don't blame them for opposing it," he said. "They're afraid. But I live out there [near the site], too."
Besides the correctional facility, the plan calls for constructing an academy with an administrative and classroom building, a semi-enclosed pistol range and a driver training classroom. Public safety workers currently are trained at various places inside and outside the county.
The entire facility would be fenced and surrounded by a wooded buffer zone.