Alexandria’s Planning Commission took steps last week to send two used car dealerships along the city’s primary restaurant and retail strip to the road.
The commission deferred consideration for two months on requests from A & B Auto Finance Co. and Kings Auto Inc. to extend permits to operate their businesses in the 1300 block of King Street, essentially giving the dealers a little extra time to find new locations.
In an effort to improve and enhance the city’s main drag, Alexandria City Council in 2006 adopted a King Street retail strategy that made the dealerships non-conforming uses. A seven-year abatement period expired in November 2013, and the dealerships hadn’t found new locations.
“This is the center of this wonderful city of ours, so we’re trying to improve it,” said Chair John Komoroske, who recently announced he will step off the commission following February’s meeting. “We’re not trying to hurt these businesses. We just don’t feel this is the right place for them.”
Komoroske said the city’s efforts to improve King Street have been successful. In 2011, the American Planning Association named King Street one of the country’s top streets—“not necessarily because of these car dealerships or the wig shops,” Komoroske added.
The owners of both dealerships asked for more time—as much as six months—to continue to operate their businesses along King Street. Commissioners said the dealers had been given ample notice and time to find new locations, but offered the deferral as a minor extension. They also made it clear that the permits would not be extended in two months.
“I think we’re trying to be generous and understanding,” Komoroske said. “It’s difficult to relocate. We’re giving you an extra two months to do that. But I think there’s been plenty of warning over a long period of time that this had to be done. I take this step reluctantly but I feel we have to.”
The dealership owners said they have spent time looking for new locations in the city but that the task had proven difficult. City staff said the owners had been put in touch with the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership to assist in relocation efforts.
“There’s a place for this in the city, but there’s not a place for it in this corridor at this time,” Commissioner Nathan Macek said.
A & B Auto Finance occupies a 3,800-square-foot lot at 1318 King Street, while Kings Auto sits on a large, 7,100-square-foot lot at 1310 King Street. The business owners are not the owners of the respective properties.