A panel of Arlington residents reduced from seven to three last night the number of sites under consideration for a combined facility for the homeless and drug treatment center that has roused loud opposition from its prospective neighbors.

The three sites, agreed on unanimously, are 3565 Lee Highway at North Monroe Street in the Cherrydale section, land owned by the Virginia Department of Transportation on Columbia Pike at Washington Boulevard, and the Rosenthal auto showroom and repair site between Shirley Highway and Shirlington Road.

The 17-member Citizens' Group on a Multi-Program Residential Center eliminated from consideration four other sites. The committee now will draft a report to County Manager Anton S. Gardner.

Gardner will make a proposal to the county Planning Commission and the County Board. The County Board will make the final decision.

The vote came toward the end of a four-hour meeting marked by the contentiousness that has characterized the five-month-old search for a site. Although committee members had hoped to recommend one site, at the end they were able only to agree on the top three choices of the majority of the group.

Original plans called for a 130-bed center, including a shelter for the homeless, a drug and alcohol treatment center and a minimum-security jail adjacent to Barcroft Park in South Arlington.

Community residents turned out by the hundreds to protest the choice, and county officials dropped that site from consideration. The minimum-security jail also was eliminated from the plans.

The hearing, held in the County Board meeting room, was not opened to discussion from the public. But many in the audience of about 20 people expressed their disappointment after the vote.

Some, such as Mike Hathaway, president of the Central Arlington Civic Association, found fault with the process because committee members were never called upon to explain why they voted for one site over another.

"I think they would have had a hard time explaining how the first two choices {the Columbia Pike and Rosenthal sites} are either in or close to the two largest black communities in Arlington," Hathaway said.

After selecting the three sites, the committee agreed that once a final site selection is made, the facility would not be expanded.

Despite the skepticism of some Arlington residents, members of the panel as well as county officials declared themselves to be pleased with the work of the group.

"I think we did very well, considering the tremendous diversity of the committee," said the Rev. Charles Wildman, a committee member.

"We came to the process with a lot of fear and a lot of anger, but we came out with a proposal we can live with. I feel happy about that."

Ron Carlee, director of the county's Department of Human Services, also pronounced the final vote a success, despite the group's inability to recommend a single site to the county manager.

"We now have three sites that we're able to evaluate, and we have backup possibilities" in the event that one of the sites proves to be unusable, he said.

Sally Michael, a county spokeswoman, said that additional public hearings will be held and that those who oppose the committee's choices will be heard.