Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles and residents of Arlington Heights and Alcova Heights appear to be gridlocked over plans to build a permanent, full-service DMV facility on South Glebe Road between South Fifth and Sixth streets.

The DMV now leases a former tire store at 3411 South Fifth Street across the street from where it proposes to build. Plans call for construction of a one-story, 6,000-square-foot building designed to mirror the architectural style of neighborhood houses.

But residents from the surrounding neighborhoods argued at a meeting last week with DMV and county officials that no DMV branch belongs in the area. The new facility, like the present facility, will have insufficient parking, forcing people to park on side streets. DMV traffic, including inexperienced student drivers, also will overflow into the neighborhoods, they said.

"Even before it opens, people are in line, out on the street, obstructing traffic," said resident Lydia B. Nunez. "Saturdays are even worse."

Neighbors said that the DMV branch makes the streets unsafe for their children. Some parents said they are also nervous about the influx of strangers into their neighborhoods.

Youngsters playing in the area or walking or riding bicycles to and from school may be hit by an inexperienced driver, residents said. Thomas Jefferson Middle and Patrick Henry Elementary schools are both in the area.

"As a mother, I'm worried about the safety of our children with the increase of test drivers and strangers into our residential neighborhood," said Nunez, who has lived on Sixth Street for 12 years. "Residents find dents and scratches on their cars that weren't there the night before."

DMV officials said that they cannot prohibit test drivers from driving in the neighborhood.

"In areas where we have branch offices, it's logical for driver trainer vehicles to train in the area," said Dan Byers, the DMV's assistant administrator with field services. "We cannot demand that they not drive through a residential neighborhood."

Converting South Fifth Street into a one-way street between the DMV facility and Jackson Street is being studied as a solution to drivers exiting the parking lot into the community.

In 1986 and 1987, the DMV bought three houses at South Sixth Street and Glebe Road, for $575,400. In 1987, the department was denied a special use permit by the county for a proposed two-story structure on the lot.

If the current site plan and special use permit are approved by the county, the new facility will add traffic to an already congested area, residents said. The neighborhood incorporates the county's Thomas Jefferson Recreation Center and Career Center.

"This neighborhood is absorbing facilities for the entire county," said Jim Charleton, president of the Arlington Heights Civic Association. "We feel we're being forced to shoulder too much of the burden."

Charleton's house abuts the proposed facility's property line. A six-foot masonry wall would be built by the DMV as a screen between the two sites. Charleton worries that the property values of the surrounding houses will decrease if the new branch is built.

"Who wants to buy property next to a continuous circus?" Charleton said.

Charleton and other residents have complained that people try to raid the DMV's parking lot trash bin at 2 and 3 in the morning looking for material to use for fake identifications. The DMV has installed a light and now shreds its documents, but locks placed on the trash bin are often broken, Byers said.

In a DMV-sponsored traffic and parking survey of the present site in August, the 56-space parking lot was 96 percent to 98 percent full during peak parking periods.

The new facility will have 49 parking spaces and five employee spaces, not enough for the number of customers using the site, residents said. DMV officials argue that people parking in the DMV lot are not necessarily using the facility.

"There are many hours of many days that are not peak hours when spaces are empty," Byers said in response to complaints that the parking lot is always full. In addition, he said, "There are many people who are not using the DMV facility who are parking there."

The DMV is investigating ways to increase the number of parking spaces.

The department has tried to reduce customer lines by encouraging simultaneous driver's license and vehicle registration renewal, offering renewal by mail and extending the hours of service at the facility.

The DMV estimates that the present site handles 200,000 transactions a year. Sixty-eight percent of them are made by Arlington County residents.

Arlington County has 159,000 residents. By 2000, the population is expected to increase to 171,000.

"If you want to provide service, you have to have a place where {a facility} will be located. We bought the property to meet the needs of a growing community," said Byers. "We feel that it will be an appropriate place to build."

But neighbors say they will continue to fight having any DMV facility in the area.

"I will do whatever is legal to actively oppose it," Nunez said.

The DMV will apply for its special use permit in December after trying to meet county and citizen concerns. The Planning Commission will hold a hearing in February on the proposed facility and the County Board will hold its hearing in March.