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 recently 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 members 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.
"On the one side they want more, and on the other, they try to cut your throat," he said, expressing a sentiment common among area business operators.
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."
Lederer said even the city chamber of commerce has identified the improvement of the traffic flow as the major priority, but the real problem is one of "enforcement."
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.
Lederer wondered if valet parking for Hofman's Alibi restaurant is necessary, noting that it was a recent addition but that parking in the area -- there is no public parking on the street -- has not changed much in several years. He said businesses have to ask if "you've got a survival situation or is it a luxury?"
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."
Jack Rust, president of the city's chamber of commerce, said the members of the business community that would be most affected are located on the north side of Main Street.
Rust said removal of the loading zones would present "a great deal of difficulty" to those businesses. He said most of the businesses are willing to concede the removal of the zones on North Street, where there is access to an alley for unloading.
"By and large, the businesses on Main Street have no alternate area," he said.
As for city residents, Mayor George Snyder said their concern is that the loading zones hinder traffic movement. "Maybe greater policing of private motorists parking illegally in unloading zones is needed in that area."
"The restaurants and establishments located in the block have to have service available," Snyder said. He hopes the council would consider alternatives, such as restrictions on loading times, when it reviews the proposal.
But Tasso Triarhos, owner of Main Street's Havabite Eatery, said, "There's no way you can make an appointment for deliveries. We'd have to bring in a helicopter to bring the stuff in."
Triarhos said his restaruant would be especially hard hit because he also uses the loading zone for delivering food to customers.
"It will be a real hardship for the few businesses on this block," he said. "Close to going out of business."