Worried that Fairfax City will become "another Georgetown," city officials are considering strict regulations to make it tougher to build amusement arcades or to serve alcoholic beverages in future bars and restaurants. And, one official said, that may be just the beginning.
"We definitely have a problem, and we want to get ahead of it before it becomes as bad as Georgetown," said Mary Petersen, Fairfax City Planning Commission chairwoman. "We have had police foot patrols downtown and along Rte. 50, around some of these drinking establishments. People come out yelling and screaming and throwing trash. Some businessmen have had windows broken and glass in their parking lots."
After four months of study, the planning commission has turned over to the City Council its recommendations on the problem. Action probably will come next month, when budget sessions are completed.
In a related move, the commission last week unanimously approved an ordinance requiring establishments that serve alcohol to come before the City Council for special-use permits. Currently, bars and restaurants serving liquor are unregulated by the city. The proposed ordinance now goes to the council for approval.
At the same time, the council is considering several Planning Commission recommendations to make it more difficult for video-game arcades to come into Fairfax City. Arcade owners would have to go before the council--not the Board of Zoning Zppeals--to obtain permits to operate, according to commission recommendations.
"So every 7-Eleven and market doesn't come to the city (for a permit), we felt that two (video game) machines should be allowed as a matter of right in commercial zones," Petersen said. "But around the bigger arcades with more than six games, something has to be done about parking requirements. In Fairfax County and Alexandria, amusement arcades are limited to shopping centers, where there is communal parking and all the stores close at about the same time."
Last July the City Council shot down a planning commission recommendation to ban the arcades in Fairfax City. The council voted to allow arcades with more than six electronic games if they obtained permits from the zoning board. That opened the door for two arcades to come into the city.
"People started asking why these video arcades were allowed in Fairfax City, so the council last November asked us to look at it again," Petersen said. "We just don't want to become the video arcade capital of Northern Virginia."