A citizens' task force has recommended creation of a Centreville Historic District to make sure that landmark homes and churches in the core of the Centreville area are protected from commercial and intense residential development.

The suggested historic district is a companion proposal to a recently released study outlining proposed growth for the entire Centreville area of western Fairfax.

Richard L. Korink, chairman of the citizens group, said the new historic district would enable Fairfax to preserve Centreville's identity, which "would otherwise be obscured by population growth and cultural influx."

Centreville is located in the I-66, Route 28 and Route 29 corridor, a part of Fairfax now undergoing extensive development pressures. Some of those pressures, however, apparently were alleviated by Fairfax County's decision to down-zone land in the Occoquan watershed.

The new study cautions that any widening of Braddock Road, a major Centreville thoroughfare, would endanger historic buildings because those buildings sit close to the road.

The study is a proposal and is yet to be adopted by the county as the land-use guide for the center of Centreville, according to Wayne Pumphrey, assistant director of planning for Fairfax County's land-use planning division.

The report was prepared by a citizens group working with county agencies, including the history commission and the architectural review board.

If approved, the Centreville Historic District would be the county's 12th "historic overlay district," a term used to identify certain historic parts of Fairfax County.

The core area generally is in the middle of Centreville along both sides of Braddock Road and north to buildings on both sides of Mount Gilead Road.

"Recommendations for the Centreville Historic District stress retention of the old mixture of uses which have historically characterized the area," the study said.

Local historians date Centreville to the 1730s; Braddock Road was named about 1755. During the 1770s, the area was referred to as Newgate, a name that often appears on certain landmarks there. Mount Gilead, one of the oldest homes in Fairfax County, is the only surviving structure from the Newgate era.

During the Civil War, Centreville was occupied by both Confederate and Union soldiers, and the area took decades to recover from the ravages of that war, according to the historic district proposal.

Today, old homes and churches are threatened by new commercial development and road improvements. Since the 1970s, Centreville has been "seen as a regional growth center. Evidence of the pressures for development are seen in new area subdvisions and in the nearby Newgate shopping center. Along Braddock Road itself, two new office buildings and increasing use of older structures for commercial purposes are evidence of this pressure," the study said.

There is some vacant land in the Centreville core, and proponents of the historic district are worried that older residential structures could be consolidated to produce "more intense development. This clearly puts pressure on the historic sites in the area, the only visible reminders of old Centreville," the report said.

The historic district is needed for many reasons, the report said, including:

* The historical and architectural significance of five buildings -- the Mount Gilead House, St. John's Church, the Harrison House, the Havener House and another church known as the Old Stone Church.

* The value of Civil War earthworks near Mount Gilead.

* The need to protect the area from environmental influences, such as the widening of Braddock Road.

* A desire to ensure that future development is compatible with the older areas. A concern that possible high-density development outside the core area could have "undesirable consequences for the historic core."

The study calls for limiting future residential construction to five to eight units per acre and opposes any industrial zoning in the historic district.

The study said potential road improvements could have a "devastating impact on the historical structures and environment of this particular historic district." On-street parking also should be discouraged, the study said.

A series of public hearings on the proposal will be held before the county takes action on it.