A public hearing last night on a proposed facility combining a shelter for the homeless and a drug rehabilitation center drew about 250 Arlington residents with sharply differing views on where it should be located and whether it should be built at all.
The hearing on the bitterly disputed $1.3 million, 68-bed facility was held by a county-appointed citizens panel that is to recommend a site for the facility. Eight sites are under consideration.
So many people signed up to speak at the hearing at Kenmore Middle School that it will continue Thursday night.
Noting how acrimonious the debate has become, panel Chairman Lutrelle F. Parker said last night, "We are talking about Arlingtonians helping Arlingtonians. It's a somewhat easy task to say what you are against. Tell us . . . a solution for something that is not going to go away," he said.
The panel then heard both sides of the debate.
Critics were vehement in their opposition, saying the facility would be too large, expressing fears for their safety and property values, and saying that county officials have been insensitive to their concerns.
Many said their neighborhoods already shoulder the burden of county facilities and the complex should not be in a residential area.
Many supported putting the facility in the current jail, which will be vacated when a new jail is finished in 1992. County officials have said that using the jail site would be costly and cause program delays.
The facility "would bring the mentally deranged, perverts, addicts, and alcoholics," said John A. Antonelli, who lives close to the Virginia Department of Transportation lot near Washington Boulevard and Columbia Pike, one of the proposed sites. "I don't think it should be anywhere at all. Use the money for better schools, more police," he said.
"Don't cram something down our throats," said Ray Andrus, a Rosslyn resident. "I don't want a loose cannon to confront my wife, to confront my friends," he said.
Other residents spoke in support of the facility.
Linda S. Dye, who said she lives within a block of a south Arlington drug treatment facility, said it "has been a perfectly good neighbor."
Sydney Williams Bey, who identified himself as a recovering drug addict, recalled how hard it was for him to find a treatment program when he needed one.
"It is imperative that we do something, that we try to put aside our differences," he said.
Testimony also came from social service experts who said that present facilities are overwhelmed, and who tried to dispel residents' fears of those who would use the programs. They also argued for locating the programs together, citing cost savings and overlap of services.
Last year, the county's 20-bed men's shelter served 351 people but turned away another 1,135 for lack of space, said Lt. David Carriker of the Salvation Army, which runs the shelter for Arlington.
This year only 11 percent of Arlington residents who needed drug or alcohol treatment could be placed in a program, said Thomas Fonseca, chairman of the Arlington Community Services Board. Arlington has no publicly funded center, but pays for six spaces in a Alexandria's program.
The citizens panel will meet Nov. 27 and Dec. 3 before giving its recommendation to County Manager Anton S. Gardner.
Gardner then will offer a proposal to the County Board, which will hold public hearings before making a final decision.