The town of Vienna is expected to amend its parking regulations Monday night to give police the authority to ticket people who try to sell their cars by parking them with "For Sale" signs in suburban shopping centers.
Several Northern Virginia officials say the growing phenomenon is creating problems for local residents, shopping center managers and individual store owners who consider the used cars an eyesore and an illegal use of private property.
Vienna City Council member George Lovelace said "I think all of the council would like to see this pass, would like to see this thing resolved."
In Fairfax County, zoning administrator Phil Yates ruled last week that used car sales in shopping-center lots are a violation of county zoning regulations and promised that his office would begin issuing citations to property owners who permit it.
"We will move out on this," he said. "It is definitely a violation of the zoning criteria . . . . These are spaces that were required by the zoning laws and even if they are excess spaces, it is still not a permitted use."
In addition, Yates said he had been instructed by the Board of Supervisors to study ways to crack down on used cars parked along subdivision roads and state service roads.
The local government officials say they are acting in response to a growing number of complaints from Northern Virginia residents that used cars in public places are an unsightly intrusion into their neighborhoods.
A number of objections have come from center merchants. Sharon Weller, manager of the Sovran Bank branch at Turnpike Shopping Center in Fairfax City complains that it is hurting businsss. "The trouble is that . . . they're parked directly in front of our office and just left there," she said. "And our customers complain that they have no place close to the bank to park."
Combined Properties, which owns Turnpike center, has tried posting "Parking for Patrons Only" signs threatening to tow unauthorized vehicles to no avail.
"I don't figure they'll do nothing," shrugged one Turnpike seller, standing in a sea of cars parked beside the signs there last weekend.
Vienna laws already make it illegal to park cars for sale along public roadways, but the proposed amendment would give town police authority to ticket people who park vehicles with "For Sale" signs in commercial lots. The fine would be $10.
Fairfax City officials said they were unsure whether local governments had the authority to prevent people from selling vehicles on private property.
"We know it is a problem, and we know it has gotten worse," said City Manager Ed Wyatt. "But here's a classic example of some innovative thinking that is pretty much outside the framework of existing statutes, because who would have thought anyone would be so presumptuous as to think it within their right to sell a car on somebody else's property?"
But browsers and sellers at Turnpike last weekend disagreed.
"We have a friend who buys and sells cars for a living and he says you can get the best deal here, and that's what people are looking for these days," said Mary Ann Turner of Chantilly who was there with her husband Richard looking for a second car. "It's a real service, and I would hate to see them stop it."
"It's certainly no more of an eyesore than the rest of these shopping centers," said Matt Raley, a George Mason University student who was shopping for a van. "And I'm sure these merchants benefit from all the people who come in here just to look around for a car."
"I guess it doesn't look that good, but if you need to sell a car, it's really nice," said Tim Millman, a Fairfax City resident who was trying to sell his five-year-old Mustang. "I imagine people are going to hang onto this as long as they can."