Two Fairfax-based companies have formed a joint venture to develop a 400-acre office, retail and residential complex for the Centerville area of western Fairfax. Preliminary plans for the center, which is being compared with the 600-acre Fair Lakes project in the Fairfax Center area, were unveiled late this week by Hazel-Peterson Cos. and the Pomeroy Cos. Further details are not yet available.

James Todd, president of Hazel-Peterson, confirmed that a deal has been struck with Pomeroy to jointly develop the site, which is known as the Payne tract. It is south of I-66 and Washington-Dulles International Airport and three miles west of Fairfax Center at Route 28 near Route 29. The site also is west of the planned Springfield bypass.

A spokesman for Pomeroy said "whatever Hazel-Peterson said stands."

Todd said Hazel-Peterson officials see the Payne tract as one of the last large areas available for development for another major mixed-used center in Fairfax.

"We are quite excited about it," Todd said.

County planners predicted 15 years ago that that part of the Centerville area would be good for high-density development, county officials said.

Although details of what would go on the site have not been worked out, Todd said a hotel might be included in the project. He also said that the joint venture will aim "for high-quality development" in much the style of Fair Lakes, the 600-acre mixed-used project his company is building in the Fairfax Center area near I-66, the Springfield bypass and Route 50. At that site, Hazel-Peterson is spending more than $25 million for road improvements. County officials said they expect the final development plan for the Payne tract to contain major road improvements likely to be funded by developers.

While many of Fairfax County's developers have been buying land for major projects in Loudoun County, John T. Hazel, a partner of Hazel-Peterson, said he is sticking with Fairfax. "We don't know any place else better than we know Fairfax," Hazel said. "Fairfax is the best place for us to do business."

In spite of delays in getting land-use changes and building-permit applications approved, Hazel said development "is still here to be done. It might be tough," but he still prefers to build in Fairfax County. Hazel said he tried to develop in Maryland "once or twice, but I got stung. I don't know those people."

Zoning applications necessary for the joint-venture project already are in the county pipelines. More than three years ago, Pomeroy filed to have the site rezoned from residential.

In February, Pomeroy filed two development plans in an attempt to gain faster approval of his 3-year-old rezoning request. Pomeroy said the first proposal would comply with the Occoquan watershed downzoning decision made in 1982 by the Board of Supervisors. The second plan would comply with a study of the Centerville area prepared by a citizens' task force, the company said. That study was completed last year but was not released until a few months ago.

Todd said developers want to get involved with county officials and residents to plan what should go on the 400 acres in much the same way a developer-citizen task force produced the current land-use plan for the entire Fairfax Center area. That task force was known as the 50/66 Task Force.