The steady growth of fast food restaurants and auto dealerships in Fairfax City could soon be stunted, if a proposal for tighter commercial zoning standards is approved by city officials next month.
The proposed zoning ordinance amendments would require fast food restaurants to be located at least 60 feet from an intersection and 500 feet from the border of a residential neighborhood, effectively limiting the number of fast food restaurants that could operate in a city block.
The ordinance also includes more stringent noise, parking and fencing requirements for auto dealerships.
Peggy Wagner, city planning director, said that residents are concerned about the proliferation of fast food restaurants in the city.
Wagner said that her department also has received complaints about the litter, noise and odors usually generated from the restaurant sites.
More than one-third of the city's restaurants are fast food establishments. The city also has 21 auto dealerships, primarily located along the busy Rte. 50 corridor.
Bettie Gee, who lives in the Cambridge Station subdivision off Rte. 50, said the city was "saturated" with the two businesses targeted by the zoning proposal. Gee said that restaurants and auto dealerships are located too close to residential areas and threaten to decrease the value of nearby town houses and single family homes.
"The citizens of the city want to see a mixed use," Gee said. "We could end up with [Rte. 50] looking like a commercial eyesore, with one retail establishment after another."
The proposal also would require future fast food restaurant and auto dealers to obtain special use permits from the City Council before they could open, which would give the council more control over the design and location of these businesses. Currently, such businesses do not need special permission from the council to operate in the city.
Opponents of the proposal said that clamping down on fast food franchises and car dealerships could further inhibit future business expansion in the city. They said the proposed zoning amendment is consistent with the recent tightening of parking lot and loading zone regulations for commercial and retail businesses in the city.
"The actions of council in the last six months have not been a positive reinforcement in the business community," said John H. Rust Jr., president of the city's Chamber of Commerce. "My concern is that the ordinance is clearly intended to basically eliminate auto dealerships and fast food restaurants in the city . . . . You shouldn't try to eliminate uses under the guise of control."
Council member Allen C. Griffith, who supports the proposed amendment, said that stricter zoning regulations are needed to "control the esthetics [in Fairfax City].
"We're a small city that almost demands surgical zoning, because we have residential and commercial areas abutting each other," Griffith said.
Dale Lestina, president of the Mosby Woods Community Association, said that the city must develop a balance between commercial, retail and service-oriented businesses.
"We're concerned about traffic congestion, the safety of our homes and what businesses will abut the residential property here," he said.
The planning commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal Sept. 23 at Fairfax City Hall, 10455 Armstrong St.