After eight years of waiting for two King Street used-car dealers to find new locations for their businesses, the Alexandria City Council voted Saturday to give the proprietors until October to vacate the premises.
The lots, in the 1300 block of King Street, are flanked by cutting-edge restaurants, high-end boutiques and elegant furniture and home goods emporiums. Both dealerships have had the same locations for decades — one since 1962 and the other, 1941. Neither appears to be a high-turnover operation, as certain vehicles have lingered on the lots for weeks if not months. Both have told the city they average 10 customers a day.
“When I was a kid growing up here, King Street had several auto dealerships . . . not to mention numerous body and repair shops that lined King Street,” said Mayor William D. Euille (D). “But all that’s changed as the city has evolved and transitioned. It’s not that we don’t want these businesses here in the city, but ideally I’m not sure the current and present site location needs to continue.”
In 2005, the city changed the zoning on King Street, and both businesses became non-conforming. They were notified they would need to find new homes. The owners said they looked periodically but could not find suitable sites. In January, the city’s Planning Commission voted to send the car lots packing. The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership stepped in and found 20 alternative locations for the businesses, but the owners rejected the choices. That set up this week’s City Council vote.
Several residents wrote to the city supporting its actions, but others objected on Saturday, calling the decision “callous” and warning that the eviction will lead to empty, undeveloped properties. Neither auto dealer owns the property where the businesses stand.
“In my 29 years of living in Alexandria, this is the most egregious action I’ve witnessed. This is eminent domain by another name,” said Van Van Fleet, a resident.
“They may not have the cachet of a boutique clothing shop or an upscale furniture store,” said Michael Hobbs, former president of the Old Town Civic Association. “Our city considers the two adult-entertainment-device stores that have been approved on King Street since 2005 . . . to be neighborhood-serving retail establishments.”
City attorney James Banks said those stores are within the law.
Behrooz Raiszadeh, owner of A&B Auto Finance at 1318 King St., and Vafa Zarineh, owner of Kings Auto at 1310 King St., asked for an extension of the deadline until October, when their Virginia dealership licenses expire. The council agreed, but said it was the last extension.