By Erich Wagner (File photo)
Two used car dealerships along King Street need to find new homes within the next four months or face closure.
The Alexandria Planning Commission voted last week to give A&B Auto Finance Co. and King’s Auto — both located in the 1300 block of King St. — that much time to move outside of the Old Town retail district before forcing them out.
Why? Because car dealerships along the thoroughfare were told seven years ago that they would have to relocate as part of the city’s vision for a more retail-centric King Street.
“You were notified back in 2006 that you couldn’t continue past November of this past year, so why did you renew your lease?” commissioner Eric Wagner asked one dealership owner. “Did you look for new locations?”
The dealership owners and their representatives said that they consider Alexandria their home, just like any other local business owner, even if the city might consider used car lots unsightly.
“I’ve been a member of the business community [in Alexandria] for the past 17 years,” said Behrooz Raiszadeh, owner of A&B Auto Finance Co. “I’ve gradually given my business a strong backbone to contribute to the city’s overall business environment.”
And Raiszadeh said he has tried to comply with city wishes that he move but has struggled to find a suitable location. City staff members also said they have put the car dealers in touch with local business groups to find new homes.
“The problem [we’ve encountered] is it’s difficult to get the new special-use permit, since this zoning is not permitted in a lot of places,” Raiszadeh said. “We just need some additional time to save the business.”
While commissioner Stewart Dunn empathizes with the business owners, he said there must be an end to such establishments along the Port City’s retail corridor.
“I feel very strongly that we should deny these applications,” Dunn said. “But I understand the difficulties, and I don’t do this lightly.”
But commissioner Derek Hyra said the commission should give the car dealerships some leeway if the issue is getting appropriate permits elsewhere.
“It sounds like it’s not really an issue of money, it’s an issue of zoning,” Hyra said. “If you can’t find a parcel that is zoned for your business, I don’t know that a month is going to help.”
Wagner offered a compromise solution, approved unanimously by his colleagues. Since it will take about two months after the commission votes for city council to weigh in and then for city staff to begin enforcement of any ruling, a two-month deferral of the applications would effectively give the dealers four months to relocate.
“I’d be willing to defer this for two months, but I won’t go any longer,” Wagner said. “I think there’s been plenty of time already.”
The commission will revisit the applications at a March meeting.