The driver of the truck pulled onto Main Street to make a delivery. A car was parked in the loading zone in front of his destination, and its driver was inside the store making a quick transaction.
The truck driver double parked; a traffic jam ensued.
That scenario, played out day after day in downtown Fairfax City, has the town's legislators and business owners crossing swords and mincing few words on the way to a solution.
The City Council held a public hearing Tuesday on a proposal to do away with the unloading of trucks along two block-long historic sections of Main and North streets. The council is considering what is more important: improving traffic movement on the streets or protecting the interests of established businesses.
"The City Council sometimes has a very narrow-minded view," Heinrich Hofman, the owner of two restaurants and a discotheque in the area, said earlier this week. Hofman contends that the removal of loading zones as proposed would prevent him from receiving deliveries at the Alibi restaurant on Main Street and would eliminate his valet parking.
The ban on unloading and loading would affect the parallel blocks of Main and North streets between Chain Bridge Road and University Drive.
"People do business in the city here," Hofman said, "but they the council show little concern to the business community." He cited the recent increase in the tax rate on businesses at the same time the council lowered the tax rate on private property.
Main and North streets are narrow, three-lane, one-way thoroughfares in the center of the city's historic district. The businesses located on the blocks number fewer than 15.
Many of the businesses receive all of their goods through a front entrance because they don't have access to an alley. In some cases, rear loading docks are designated for only one of several building tenants and at other times maneuvering a large truck in the narrow alleys is simply dangerous.
But in the minds of some city officials, the most important thing involved in the proposal is keeping the traffic moving and finding a solution compatible with city and business interests. Council member Rob Lederer said the businesses "view it as a city problem. I view it as a business problem. The bottom line is the businesses have to become part of the solution."
He said much of the responsibility for the illegal and double parking belongs with the businesses and that they are "abusing the privilege" of having the loading zones.
But if the loading zones were removed, Tom O'Daniel, president of Trico Business Equipment, said, "We would have to move. Period. We, as a business, could not receive deliveries."
O'Daniel said the contention of some city officials that easing traffic movement would ultimately help businesses "is kind of like having a doctor say, 'I will relieve your backache by cutting your throat.' "
But agreeing in part with Lederer, O'Daniel said, "Deliveries are not the problem, it's an enforcement problem. It's the abuse of the loading zone by private motorists that causes the jam."
As for city residents, Mayor George Snyder said their concern is that the loading zones hinder traffic movement.
Snyder said he hopes the council would consider alternatives such as restrictions on loading times, when it reviews the proposal.