Mayor Carol DeLong knew there was trouble in Falls Church when the mother of a young video game player called one day begging her to close the city's two downtown amusement arcades.
" 'That's the only way to stop him,' she told me," DeLong remembers the mother saying of her son. "I think these amusement arcades are really a financial drain on kids. They could be likened to one-arm bandits eating up an awful lot of money just so the kids can watch dots, blips and lines."
The City Council has scheduled a public hearing next month to consider a zoning ordinance change that would regulate new amusement arcades.
"There have been reports of rudeness and unpleasant behavior outside amusement arcades and thefts of bicycles outside these establishments," said Henry Bibber, city planning director. "Some nearby businesses have even complained that the arcades have kept customers away. Some controls are needed."
Under the proposed ordinance, new amusement arcades would not be permitted closer than 1,000 feet to a church, school or other video arcade or closer than 100 feet to a residential district not adjacent to a shopping center. Operators of future arcades with more than five video machines also would have to obtain a special use permit from the city Board of Zoning Appeals before locating in a business- or industrial-zoned site.
"There's nothing we can do to get rid of the arcades we've got," DeLong said, "but I would hope that sooner or later there will be a glut on the market and they will close."
The public hearing will be at 8 p.m. July 12 in council chambers at City Hall.