The Arlington Planning Commission voted Monday night to defer a decision on whether to allow a group home for substance-abusing women and their dependent children in a south Arlington neighborhood.

Commission members said they wanted to give local residents and proponents of the project more time to work out their differences. The commission has recommended that the county board, which will consider the matter Saturday, defer action on the proposal until April.

"What we suggested is that both sides use the opportunity of the deferral to get together and really reach out to one another and deal with their differences and concerns," said Planning Commission member Judy Freshman. "The main issue was a matter of trust -- this perception by the neighborhood that they have been taken by surprise."

Vanguard Services Unlimited, an Arlington nonprofit group, has applied for a use permit approval to operate two homes at 1301 and 1305 S. Monroe St. for the treatment of drug- and alcohol-addicted women and their children. The group, which operates two substance abuse treatment centers in Northern Virginia, has contracts on the properties and is proposing to renovate them and house a maximum of 18 women and children in the buildings.

Program Director Nancy Howell said the facility, to be named Demeter House, would be the first of its kind in Virginia and the Washington area.

The purpose of such programs, she said, is twofold: to allow women to keep custody of their children while they are receiving treatment for their addiction and to give children the opportunity to see that addiction is a habit that can be broken.

Howell said plans call for women and their children to live in the homes for an average of six months. The women would receive counseling and substance abuse education. Children would attend their local schools during the day or be supervised by staff at the homes.

But some neighbors of the proposed project said plans for the facility have moved too quickly and Vanguard Services has not made enough of an effort to inform residents about Demeter House.

Some members of the New Arlington-Douglas Park Civic Association, the civic group affected by the project, point out that officials at Vanguard Services did not send letters to neighbors until after they had signed contracts on the South Monroe Street properties in early December. They complain that not enough letters were sent and, finally when they were, the letters made the project sound like a foregone conclusion.

"Generally we felt Vanguard Services did not act in good faith with the community," said civic group member Henry Churchbourne. "It seemed to us they were rushing the project."

Paxton Baker, who heads the civic association, said the group voted 37 to 34 Jan. 28 to oppose the project, primarily on the basis that residents felt they had not been given enough facts about the proposal.

"The upshot was there was a lot of concern for what Vanguard Services was proposing -- people didn't feel they had been given all the information," Baker said. He added there is concern among civic group members that the project would introduce a dangerous element into the community.

Planning Commission member Carrie Johnson said she believes there is general support for the project among commission members. She said there is also a feeling among commission members that a greater effort can be made by both sides to communicate better.

"What {the commission} would like to do is to provide a little cooling-off time, a little time for talking," Johnson said. "Things work a lot better in this community when people have a chance to get all their frustrations out . . . . Everybody's hoping that it can happen here."