June 23, 2021

City Council Looks To Extend Business Flexibilities Into 2021

ALEXANDRIA, VA — On Tuesday, Alexandria City Council will be asked to extend certain flexibilities for businesses as they adapt operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The suspension of the specified land use regulations for businesses would continue through March 31, 2021, unless the city manager decides the suspensions should be lifted sooner. City Council previously provided these flexibilities with votes on April 14, May 26 and July 7.

In addition, the 100 block of King Street and Wales Alley will remain closed to vehicular traffic until March 31, 2021 in accordance with the city manager’s authority under the continuity of government ordinance. The closed block of King Street is being used for outdoor dining and extra walking space for pedestrians.

City staff also recommended a text amendment and ordinance go to the Planning Commission and City Council to address the longer-term need for these suspensions. Staff want to bring forward a text amendment in November and the ordinance to implement the text amendment in December.

“The business community (and the organizations who support it) have expressed the importance of keeping these measures, so critical to their recovery, in place for a longer period,” reads a memo to City Council. “This is both because they anticipate they will continue to need this flexibility for survival, as well as because they need to know that they will have the time to recoup the investments they make to take advantage of these provisions.”

The suspension of land use regulations that would continue through March 31, 2021 include:

  • Restaurant Deliveries and Takeout: The city suspends enforcement of delivery regulations to allow all restaurants to provide delivery and takeout services. Delivery vehicles and customer pickups may use on-street parking subject to posted parking requirements.
  • Hours of Operation: The city suspends enforcement of hours-of-operation restrictions on restaurants, convenience stores, catering operations and automobile service stations.
  • Sidewalk/Parking Lot Vending: The City permits restaurants and retail establishments to vend on adjacent sidewalks or parking lots. Vending is limited to the placement of orders and customer pick-up. Establishments must limit gatherings to not more than 10 people and ensure that at least a six-foot distance between patrons is maintained.
  • Off Premises Alcohol Sales: The City suspends enforcement of local restrictions on alcohol sales, including off-premises alcohol sales and delivery. Business remain subject to all Virginia ABC licensure requirements.
  • Outdoor Dining in King Street Outdoor Dining (KSOD) Area: In addition to allowances for participating businesses to have outdoor dining on sidewalks under certain guidelines, businesses are permitted to set up outdoor dining in parking spaces outside of their businesses in alignment with social distancing guidelines.
  • Outdoor Dining in Areas Outside King Street Outdoor Dining (KSOD) Program: Outdoor dining is permitted on restaurant property and in the public right-of-way (sidewalks, parking spaces, parking lots) where it will not detrimentally impact adjacent uses. Restaurant seating must be arranged in accordance with social distancing requirements. Outdoor dining on sidewalks must allow for at least five feet of continuous pedestrian access, and outdoor dining hours must be the same as approved in the restaurant SUP. Live entertainment is not permitted.
  • Outdoor Dining in Off-Street Parking Spaces on Private Property: Restaurant operators may use off-street spaces located on the same property for outdoor dining where it will not detrimentally impact adjacent uses. Restaurant seating must be arranged in accordance with social distancing requirements, outdoor dining hours must be the same as approved in the restaurant SUP, and live entertainment is not permitted.
  • Temporary Outdoor Use for Retail Uses: Retail businesses may request the use of sidewalks, on-street parking spaces, and privately-owned parking lots and spaces to display their products and conduct sales, where it will not detrimentally impact adjacent uses. Retail operators may use parking spaces in front of their business, adhering to the modified guidelines of the Parklet Program, including the location of parking spaces for outdoor dining away from corners or on streets with a high traffic volume. Social distancing requirements must be followed, and outdoor displays must allow for at least five feet of continuous pedestrian access. Live entertainment is not permitted.
  • Health and Fitness Uses in Off-street Parking Spaces on Private Property: Health and business operators may request the use of privately-owned parking lots and spaces to offer classes and provide access to fitness equipment, where it will not detrimentally impact adjacent uses. Social distancing requirements must be followed, and live entertainment is not permitted.
  • Tolling of Validity Periods for Certain Land Use Permits: Certain land use approvals (special use permits, development special use permits, BAR certificates of appropriateness and permits to demolish) require the applicant to take an action within a prescribed time frame (such as starting construction and opening the business). Because many applicants are not able to make the normal progress on their projects during the COVID-19 emergency, staff will not count the period of the emergency against these time limits. Applications approved prior to the declaration of the emergency in mid-March receive an automatic 12-month extension on the time of validity of their DSP, SUP, DSUP, or BAR Certificate of Appropriateness/Permit-to-Demolish. Applications approved during the emergency will receive a pro-rata extension. The 12-month extension is based on an assumption that the emergency will end on March 31, 2021. If the emergency continues, the validity period extension will be expanded automatically until the emergency concludes.
  • Transportation Management Plan (TMP) Survey: This is a new waiver that would be approved by City Council for the first time on Oct. 6. The City Manager is waiving the requirement for
  • developments with a Transportation Management Plan to conduct an annual survey of its residents, tenants, and employees to determine the effectiveness of the TMP. Given that travel and commute patterns are drastically different this year, staff believes these surveys will not yield reliable results or provide meaningful data.

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