In an effort to find new ways to cope with their burgeoning commercial district, Fairfax City planning officials are considering sweeping changes in how the city will develop through 1990.

Peggy Wagner, city planning director, said the officials will "address the height and density of buildings, pedestrian walkways and open spaces. We need to preserve the uniqueness of the city . . . . We need to make sure [businesses] go into the right place."

Wagner said officials will reexamine one of the most important and controversial issues facing the rapidly developing community -- the widening of Rte. 123, a major artery through the city, and building more secondary roads through the city.

Fairfax County officials have urged city officials for several years to widen Rte. 123, which runs past the county's governmental headquarters and is a constant source of gridlock in the area.

Last winter, a private transportation consultant hired by the city recommended the two-lane road be widened to four lanes to accommodate an expected increase in northbound and southbound traffic when the Vienna Metro station opens next July.

"The planning commission should really look seriously at the transportation problem in this city," Wagner said.

"The bottom line is we need to update the traffic element in the comprehensive plan," he said.

Wagner said the commission would consider a proposal to widen the road to four lanes from the southern city limits, near George Mason University, to Rust Curve.

The commission will also reevaluate the overall design of the city and consider formation of a Redevelopment Authority, which could curtail the area's growing commercial district.

She said a proposed citizen committee would work with the planning commission to give residents a way of having a say about development in the community.

Wagner said this was the first time the city's planners have considered such sweeping changes.

Wagner said she would like to see developers restore older buildings and redevelop the central commercial district, instead of squeezing new office buildings onto small pieces of property.

"I would like to see the central business district enhanced and its qualities expanded by use of the colonial period architecture and street-scaping," she said.

Another proposed change to the comprehensive plan would be more "cohesive" development around the Rte. 236-Chain Bridge Road corridor.

Wagner said a new retail center with pedestrian walkways, benches and trees would be a desireable alternative to the now traffic-choked commercial area.

Officials will also look at the possibility of building more apartments and town house cluster developments on the dwindling supply of residential property still available in the city. Planners said there was not much land left for large, single family houses.

Planning officials will hold a public hearing Nov. 18 on the proposed amendments to the city's plan.

Wagner said any changes to the comprehensive plan would be under review for at least one year before final action by the City Council.