The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1997, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Monday, January 13, 1997              TAG: 9701110001
SECTION: FRONT                   PAGE: A8   EDITION: FINAL 
TYPE: Editorial 
                                            LENGTH:   61 lines


A debate raging in the King's Grant neighborhood of Virginia Beach is as old as neighborhoods themselves.

It's called NIMBY - Not In My Backyard - and it erupts almost every time a group home, shelter or halfway house is proposed.

Despite spirited NIMBY opposition Wednesday, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve a shelter for runaway youths in the King's Grant neighborhood, a companion shelter to the 13-year-old Seton House a half-mile away.

Final approval must come from City Council, which may take up the matter next month. A shelter for runaway boys is long overdue and council should approve the plans expeditiously.

Since it opened in 1983, the Seton House shelter for runaway girls has co-existed comfortably with the neighborhood around St. Nicholas Catholic Church. By all accounts, the girls who found refuge at Seton House are good neighbors. And living in a nice neighborhood has been good for girls who desperately need a degree of normalcy.

But it is worth remembering that in the early 1980s, before Seton House opened its doors, it also faced some community opposition.

Last year, 198 girls quietly passed through the welcoming doors of Seton House. Nearly all had troubled relationships with their parents and guardians. Seton House counselors made it their mission to reunite these splintered families and help them solve their problems - while housing the girls in the shelter and giving all parties a much-needed cooling-off period.

Nearly everyone agrees that a parallel program for boys is sorely needed. Runaway boys and their families are offered counseling at Seton House, but a residential facility is an essential instrument for reuniting families.

St. Aidan's Episcopal Church has generously offered land for such a shelter on church property. Plans call for a home that could house 10 boys ages 12 to 17 for stays averaging two weeks.

About 300 residents of the King's Grant area have decided that the shelter is a good idea - somewhere else.

Residents have expressed the fear that their children will be riding school buses with troubled teens, and they worry that youngsters will be roaming the neighborhood looking for mischief. Shelter officials have tried to reassure the community but to no avail.

To placate the protesters, the shelter supporters even offered to switch the girls' shelter to the St. Aidan's location and move the boys into Seton House.

Still, opposition remains.

Some of the concerns of the King's Grant homeowners seem legitimate at first glance. All of us want to protect our children and our property - including property values.

King's Grant is one of the city's loveliest neighborhoods. But there is no sign that Seton House has adversely affected property values there and no reason to believe a facility at St. Aidan's would be detrimental either.

In a Pilot story this week by Elizabeth Simpson, St. Aidan's rector, the Rev. Paul Hogg, said many charities ``pull people from the river of despair, but a few charities go upstream and prevent them from falling in.''

Seton House has an outstanding record of community service and being a good neighbor. There is no reason to think the boys' version of Seton House would be any less an asset to Virginia Beach.

by CNB