The Charlottesville City Council has cleared the way for private valet parking companies to operate on public streets.

The council recently passed an ordinance that will allow companies that apply for a permit to block off street parking in front of businesses to allow space for pickup and dropoff of vehicles.

The ordinance came before the council after Brandon Black of Lenoir Enterprises, a limousine service, asked what permissions he would need to block off parking spaces, according to city documents.

By state law, businesses or individuals cannot block public rights of way without a permit from the locality, and Charlottesville had nothing in place to review applications or grant permits.

“The reason the city had to get involved is that if we stop a vehicle on the road, it is considered parking on a public street,” Black said. “So, when the city issues a permit, it will block off a certain number of spaces in front of the location that will turn into a loading zone.”

Black said he expects his business will need to use two or three spaces at a time.

Chris Engel, the city’s economic director, said codifying the permit structure expands opportunities for business owners.

“I want to ensure that the city’s parking needs can be met in a manner that provides as many options as possible to local businesses,” he wrote in a brief to the council. “In destination-oriented downtowns such as Charlottesville, valet parking services have been found to help ease congestion and parking concerns.”

Valet services will be required to purchase a permit for each place they intend to operate. The city will charge a $500 application fee for each permit, according to the ordinance. Permits will be good for up to 12 months.

The ordinance also requires permit seekers to specify pickup, dropoff, return and queue locations, as well as when public spaces would be blocked.

“The ordinance allows applicants to request the use of specific public parking spaces within city right of way for the purpose of providing valet parking services,” Engel said in an email. “The location would be at the preference of the applicant but subject to approval by the city.”

Black has had inquiries from several downtown restaurants and venues, he said, but declined to name them.

“I have had some interest from some businesses, and we are still in talks with them about getting stuff going in the middle of May,” he said.

When his business is up and running downtown, Black said, he plans to store customers’ vehicles in private parking lots.

“I am targeting lots that people really don’t want to park in because they are far enough from the Downtown Mall that they would be inconvenient,” he said. “You would also have to pay a fee to park there normally; otherwise, you would get towed.”

Richmond and Norfolk both allow permitted valet businesses to occupy public parking spots for queuing, according to the cities’ websites. Cities nationwide have adopted similar ordinances in recent years.

Both Los Angeles and Sacramento, California, enacted permitting ordinances after valets began popping up in public rights of way without permission, according to local news outlets.

Tim Hulbert, president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, applauded the ordinance.

“This would not be the first or the last community in the U.S. to deal with this issue,” he said. “Any time you are helping enterprise, that is a good thing.”

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