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Draper Still an Option

Lamb Center still considering move.

The Lamb Center, a drop-in shelter for people who are homeless or poor, is still considering a move to a new location. "We and the City of Fairfax are still actively engaged in looking at the property on Draper Drive," said Doug LeMasters, who is parish administrator at Truro Church and is on the board of the Lamb Center.

Members of the Lamb Center Board had met with residents of the surrounding area, which is just outside the city limits, on March 29. After the meeting, some had thought that the center had given up moving to Draper Drive because of the unfavorable reaction they received from neighbors.

However, LeMasters said that the Lamb Center is continuing to examine the location. "It’s the only location I’m aware of that’s got any interest," he said. The center, which serves an average of 80 people per day, is currently located on Old Lee Highway near Fairfax Circle. The building is about 3,400 square feet. The Draper Drive location is about 19,000 square feet. Besides a space crunch, the center’s lease on its current location had been set to expire in September.

The board of the center feared that it would not be able to have a new location operational in the six months that it has, so LeMasters said that the center has entered into a five-year extension on its lease. He hopes, however, that they will be able to move to a new location before the end of the extension. "The sole point of that is to ensure continuity of service," LeMasters said.

NEIGHBORS REITERATED their opposition to moving the shelter. Bob Freeman, a member of the Kingsbridge Task Force, a group that addresses issues in the Kingsbridge Drive area, said that Draper Drive is too densely populated for a shelter. "There are over 800 households in the Kingsbridge Drive corridor," Freeman said. He pointed out that a pool, park, elementary school and dance studio are located close to the proposed location. "All of these things suggest it should be in a more commercial neighborhood," he said.

Truro is paying $6,000 for an architectural survey of the building, an empty warehouse at 3141 Draper Drive. The money will be used to analyze whether the space can fill the center’s needs. "The first thing we are looking at was would the building work," LeMasters said.

The Fairfax City Council appropriated funds to reimburse the church for the costs, and that money is still available, said City Manager Robert Sisson.

Noting the money involved, Freeman thinks the city is simply looking to get rid of the center. "It’s fairly obvious that the mayor and City Council are looking for a way to drop it on the county," Freeman said.

In a previous interview, Fairfax mayor Robert Lederer had said that he did not think the Lamb Center was suited to being in the commercial area on Fairfax Circle, but did not say that the city was looking for a way to move the center out of the city limits.

LeMasters said that few spaces are available that meet their requirements of being relatively close to the existing center and also being on a bus route. "There are just not that many places that have the square footage," he said.

Before the center could operate at the new location, it would need a special exception from Fairfax County. This would require a public hearing before both the Fairfax County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. The center would then need to be renovated before it could be occupied.

One of the few things that could stop them, LeMasters said, is "if all of a sudden, we decide the zoning issues are insurmountable."