Fort Belvoir officials will explain the post's family housing initiative during a public meeting next Thursday at Walt Whitman Middle School in the Alexandria section of the county.

The so-called scoping meeting will begin the public involvement phase of Fort Belvoir's Residential Communities Initiative. Construction is set to begin next year on a long-term public-private project involving as many as 2,890 homes (1,892 replacement homes and 998 new ones). In addition, 178 historic homes will be renovated.

Six neighborhood centers, a community recreation center and a clubhouse are also planned.

The meeting will be held at two times: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. in the cafeteria. Whitman is at 2500 Parker's Lane.

"We've planned the meeting as an open house, with work stations where the public can have personal dialogue with subject-matter experts," said Garrison Commander Col. T.W. Williams.

The housing privatization program will help the Army work with a private developer -- Clark Pinnacle Family Communities -- to finance, design, construct, manage, operate, maintain and repair family housing. In exchange, the developer receives the military members' basic allowance for housing.

Any citizen can provide comment and questions to Fort Belvoir officials about the housing initiative. Forms will be provided at the meeting for mailing back written comments, or visitors can provide oral statements to a court reporter. Those unable to attend the scoping session may submit comments by e-mail to environmental@belvoir.army.mil or by regular mail to DIS-NEPA Comment, RCI Environmental & Natural Resource Division, 9430 Jackson Loop, Fort Belvoir, Va. 22060-5130.

The deadline for comments is Jan. 31.

-- Stephen C. Fehr