A picture caption in Tuesday's Metro section incorrectly characterized a blighted section of Rte. 1 in Fairfax County. There are no adult bookstores in the 7 1/2-mile stretch between the Capital Beltway and Fort Belvoir. (Published 7/24/87)

The Southeast Fairfax Development Corp., a county-funded group charged with forging a coalition to revitalize the blighted Rte. 1 corridor, is under fire for allegedly siding with developers, refusing to release information to the public and ignoring residents' suggestions.

Critics say that the SFDC, a nonprofit "public-private partnership" that has received about $800,000 from the county in the past five years, has barred citizens from its meetings, enforced "a broad gag rule" on some of its proceedings and accepted donations from developers along the corridor without informing the public.

The dispute -- which frequently has been couched in terms of growth versus slow-growth and developer versus citizen throughout the county -- has eroded support for the SFDC and threatens to shatter the consensus needed to revitalize the Rte. 1 area, a strip of car washes, motels, fast-food restaurants and topless bars in southeastern Fairfax.

At the request of the Board of Supervisors, County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert has drafted a report on the SFDC that he is scheduled to discuss today in a meeting with SFDC officials and representatives of citizen groups.

The report calls for increasing citizen representation on the SFDC board and requiring that board members file financial disclosure forms. The report also recommends that the SFDC board go into executive session only when it would be permitted under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. In a defeat for SFDC critics, the report also recommends that the source of contributions to the SFDC not be reported without the donor's consent.

Although the Rte. 1 corridor, stretching 7 1/2 miles between the Capital Beltway and Fort Belvoir, is considered one of the county's chief embarrassments, it is also considered a potential gold mine for developers willing to gamble on its future.

The SFDC was formed in 1982 to support economic development along the strip primarily by acting as a mediator among citizens, developers and business owners, all of whom have representatives on its 19-member, volunteer board of directors.

Despite the controversy, there is almost unanimous agreement that the SFDC has succeeded in improving the Rte. 1 corridor and should continue its mission. The group claims credit for having assisted in $60 million worth of new development in the corridor that has added 1,185 new jobs and preserved 355. The projects include the $2.4 million Metrocall Building at 6677 Richmond Hwy. and the controversial $13 million Huntwood Plaza at Rte. 1 and the Beltway.

Howard Kitzmiller, president of the SFDC, defended the organization, saying it has a policy of encouraging citizen input and that "the perception SFDC is on the side of the builder" is wrong.

SFDC supporters say that the controversy is the result of political and personal disputes with the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations, a politically active coalition of civic groups in the Mount Vernon magisterial district, which borders Rte. 1. SFDC supporters say the council has taken a confrontational stance against some of the developments in the corridor and against growth in general.

According to most participants, the controversy started when the SFDC pushed for the high-profile Huntwood Plaza, an eight-story, 100,000 square-foot building at the corridor's northern "gateway." Critics say the group went out of its way to accommodate the developer, Turner-Harwood, and gave short shrift to citizen concerns about how much traffic the project would generate and how tall the building should be.

The dispute prompted the council to form "citizen guidelines for Rte. 1 development" that suggested "caution must be exercised to avoid overemphasizing Rte. 1 as an employment center." The guidelines also encouraged that building heights in the area be limited to 40 feet.

The council also complained of potential conflicts of interest, citing, among other cases, a $25,000 contribution to the SFDC from Turner-Harwood. The donation was made after Huntwood Plaza was completed.

The SFDC responded in its 1986 fourth-quarter report that there was "an alarming trend towards the politicalization of this {the development} issue, particularly in the Mount Vernon District." The report stated that a "small minority" appeared to be "play{ing} on the community's concerns and fears {about traffic} to orchestrate recent public debate . . . and forcing through the opinions of this minority as the community's 'consensus.' "

Kitzmiller said that the SFDC has attempted to defuse the problems with the council. "They sent a letter asking for a dozen, 15 things, including information about how we're structured, how our committees work, our articles of incorporation, copies of our newsletter. We could have written them back {asking}, 'Who do you think you are, some congressional investigative committee?' But we didn't. We gave them the information and we sent copies to all the local civic organizations, too."

During a public hearing on the matter before the Board of Supervisors last month, Earl Flanagan, cochairman of the Mount Vernon Council, charged that the SFDC had "used taxpayer dollars to launch an attack" on his group in a quarterly report that "vilifies the integrity of Mount Vernon citizens . . . who are portrayed as fools."

"Citizens in the Mount Vernon Council are not paying taxes {to} . . . possibly be slandered or libeled by a private corporation," he added.