The Fairfax City Council has voted unanimously to enforce more stringent parking and landscape requirements for commercial and retail businesses in an effort to ease severe parking problems in the city.
The new ordinance increases the city's parking space requirements for businesses by at least 25 percent, establishes mandatory loading spaces for stores and office buildings and increases the length of drive-through lanes at new fast food restaurants with take-out windows.
Council members passed the ordinance last week after four hours of debate that included testimony from local business leaders who strongly objected to the beefed-up zoning regulations. The new laws are effective immediately.
Peggy T. Wagner, city planning director, said the new ordinance will help alleviate the city's parking problems, especially around the busy intersection of Main Street and Chain Bridge Road.
"People want to see more parking in this city . . . it's an advantage to them, especially in a central location," Wagner said.
The ordinance requires businesses to provide an off-street loading space for the first 10,000 square feet of floor area, plus one extra space for each additional 30,000 square feet of floor space. The former parking ordinance did not require loading spaces for buildings.
David Hudson, the city's senior planner, said the mandatory loading area provision is designed to prevent large cargo trucks from unloading goods on the street. "Hopefully, there will be enough area set aside for safe and convenient access, and developers will provide enough loading space so a parking area won't become congested" with trucks, he said.
Local builder W. Rembert Simpson, who represented the City Affairs Committee of the Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, said the loading space requirement was "injurious" to smaller businesses that had neither space nor use for the additional parking.
"It's going to be an architectural challenge," Simpson said.
John H. Rust Jr., president of the area's Chamber of Commerce, also objected to the mandatory loading space regulation.
"If you already have the capacity to deal with deliveries on the site, it's not necessary to set aside a special space," Rust said. "It doesn't make sense for office facilities that get deliveries once a month."
The new ordinance also requires all new fast food restaurants to provide at least 15 stacking spaces for cars at a drive-in window. Hudson said this standard would help keep busy streets clear during afternoon lunch hours when volumes of cars line up at take-out windows. STAlso, new parking lots must now provide one landscaped island for every 12 parking spaces instead of every 20 spaces. Planning officials said this povision would make parking lots more esthetically pleasing.
The new regulation also eliminated the need for compact car parking spaces to reflect the trend in small and medium-sized cars, said Hudson. He said compact car parking spaces had previously posed enforcement problems and it was no longer neessary to provde the special spaces.
Planning officials proposed to revamp the city's parking ordinace after an earlier council-sponsored study reported on the worsening parking squeezein the city. Hudson said the new regulations represented a compromise between the planning staff's recommendations and concerns of the city's business leaders.
"Everyone wins. The council was responsive to the business community and the city wins because esthetically the parking lots will be better," Hudson said.