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Proposed Bill Targets Commercial Vehicles

Springfield resident Sonny Atwal manages his delivery service from an office at his home, but the company’s eight vehicles, six trucks and two vans are parked in a rented lot in Lorton.

Atwal is aware of the parking situation in his community and the desires of his neighbors.

"People here don't like it. As I believe it, commercial vehicles should park at the business," he said.

He lives off Hillside Avenue, which is an area targeted by Del. Dave Albo (R-42nd) in a bill proposed to combat the parking of commercial vehicles in residential areas.

In Albo's bill HB1329 — with "patrons" listed as Bolvin, Albo and McQuigg — commercial vehicles are defined as "any vehicle primarily used for commercial purposes with a registered gross vehicle weight of 6,000 pounds or more," showing company lettering or logos "other than bumper stickers."

The way Atwal deals with his vehicles is the way all business vehicles should be handled, according to Albo. He lives in that area as well.

"I need to change the existing law. The employers are going to have to pay for a commercial lot," Albo said.

Recently, Albo sent a letter to Fairfax County Police Capt. Dorian Portee at the West Springfield District station, complete with copies of the state code and digital pictures of some of the vehicles in question. The letter states, "I would like to know which of these vehicles you believe can be ticketed and which cannot. This will assist me in rewriting the law this summer. In addition, if you believe any of these parked vehicles are in current violation of the law, please ticket them." He has not received a response to the letter.

Over at the West Springfield District Station, Officer Mark Rogers and Traffic Officer Richard Brannan handled Albo's letter.

"Of the nine photos he gave us, one vehicle left the area, two violations were cited, and six of the vehicles were not in violation," Rogers said.

Capt. Dorian Portee knows that parking is a problem countywide.

"Commercial vehicles in the county have always been an issue because of the way the code is written. Throughout the county we have had complaints," he said.

Burke resident Gary Hodges is opposed to this type of parking restriction. When he lived in Alexandria, Hodges owned a taxicab that he parked in his driveway, but he still received resident opposition.

"They've got just as much right to park there as anyone else," he said.

Property value is part of Albo's argument. He thinks an oversized commercial vehicle parked outside a house for sale lowers the value.

"It's actually costing people money. It's a no-brainer for the prospective buyer," Albo said.

Atwal agrees.

"It will make some difference when people are thinking of buying a place in a residential area," he said.

Diana Whitfield is a Realtor who does a lot of business in the Burke area. The housing market this year has been so strong nothing seems to affect it, but in average years, commercial vehicles on the street could deter buyers.

"It affects it somewhat. It does make it look like a commercial section. In a typical year, it could affect people's perception of the area," Whitfield said.

The situation on Roberts Road is one area in particular where Whitfield has seen an increase in parking.

"It does affect the aesthetics," she said.

Christine Tollefson, an administrative assistant in Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office, handles a lot of parking complaints as well.

"We do get a lot of complaints. First safety, second the value of their homes," she said.

ATWAL DIDN'T start out with the same personal parking policies. When he opened his business, he had one business vehicle and would park it around the corner.

"I got a note once. Most of the community don't like it. A couple of times, we did have tickets," he said.

The Virginia Code Albo outlined, 46.2-1224 and 46.2-122.1, states, "The governing body of any county may, by ordinance, prohibit any person from parking any motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer on or adjacent to the highways in the county when such person parks any such motor vehicle or semitrailer for commercial purposes." It later defines a commercial vehicle as "defined by 46.2-341.4 or any vehicle licensed by the commonwealth for use as a common or contract carrier or as a limousine."

Across Hillside Avenue from Atwal, a taxicab without lights on top and with colored magnets covering the name on the side was in a residential spot. The door was not answered when a reporter knocked, but Atwal thinks this parked car is all right.

"That should be all right, as long as you don't display it [the name]," he said.

BURKE CENTRE has parking guidelines in its community rulebook. Under Section II, Vehicle Types, the rules state, "The types of vehicles which may not be parked in areas covered by this directive, include the following: commercial, recreational, or inoperable vehicles. These vehicle types shall be parked only in a garage or in a screened enclosure approved by the Architectural Review Board." In section III, commercial vehicles are defined as "any vehicle on which advertising is displayed, except for window decals; any vehicle with externally located or visible commercial equipment or materials. Commercial equipment includes, but is not limited to, ladders, compressors, generators, pumps, and building trade tools."

Brannan noted the difference between laws and civic association rules. The homeowners association laws do not supersede county or state laws, and they cannot be enforced by police officers.

"They're not even laws," he said.