Proposed drive-thru regulations presented to planning committee

Dave Bartlett
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The city of St. John's planning committee got a short list of options on what rules should apply to drive-thrus in residential areas, last week.

But because only four members of council attended the committee meeting, it's unclear if the proposed regulations will have enough support to be passed by council when they are debated next week.

Ward 1 Coun. Danny Breen said it's been a really tough issue for council to address.

"It is," replied committee chairman Coun. Tom Hann at the meeting. "We've been at this for a year."

The city decided to put some guidelines around drive-thrus in place after a controversial decision to allow one at the intersection of Torbay Road and Pearson Street last winter.

City staff researched how other cities across Canada handle drive-thrus and found regulations widely vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Afterwards, staff drafted regulations which were presented at a public meeting in February.

The most common issue raised at that meeting was the distance drive-thrus can be from homes and residential zones.

After considering the public input, staff presented the committee with three options to consider:

A 5 metre buffer between homes and a drive through with a mandatory sound barrier;

A 15 metre buffer zone - about the width of a standard building lot - with no sound barrier required;

Or a complete ban on drive-thrus where they would abut residential properties or zones.

If a sound barrier is required it would have to be designed by an accredited acoustic engineer at the proponent's expense.

City traffic engineer Robin King told the committee the goal of buffer zones and noise barriers is that drive-thrus have no negative impact on nearby residences.

Breen asked why the buffer couldn't be even larger, say 20 or 25 metres.

But it was pointed out by city manager Bob Smart that if mandatory distances are set that high, then it basically was a message that council will not allow new drive-thrus near homes at all.

Smart also said he believed no one around the committee table would want a drive-thru within five metres of their home, which seemed to get a lot of nods from councillors and staff.

The councillors present - Breen, Ward 2 Coun. Frank Galgay, Hann and Ward 3 Coun. Bruce Tilley couldn't reach an agreement on any of the options.

But Hann wondered if a hybrid solution would work - a 10-metre buffer with a mandatory sound barrier.

Tilley then moved the city go one step further to 15 meters plus a sound barrier.

"But nothing less than 15," he said.

At first, Breen was reluctant to second the motion.

"I'm still not sold (that) I want them in residential areas (at all,)" he said.

Breen finally agreed to support Tilley's suggestion but said he reserved the right to change his mind during the debate in the public council chamber, which is expected to happen a week from today.

Geographic location: St. John's, Torbay Road, Pearson Street Canada

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Recent comments

  • Andrew
    March 19, 2012 - 14:32

    How about no more drive-thrus, period? Surely people can *walk* into McDonald's without sitting in their idling car?

  • Christopher Chafe
    March 19, 2012 - 13:26

    Good God, this city is getting closer and closer to moving out of the 21st century and into the start of the 19th century.

  • Smarth Mouth
    March 19, 2012 - 10:47

    More important than any of the proposed solutions….no drive thru should obstruct the view of the harbour.

  • sealcove
    March 19, 2012 - 10:23

    They will ask timmies if it is ok

  • Marian Atkinson
    March 19, 2012 - 08:38

    Why not support *no drive-thrus abutting residential properties*. Buffer zones don't block the odours. The Burger King on Torbay Road is only just opened, and the smell is there already. It floats above the 'buffer fence' and into people's homes. If there were no drive-thrus abutting residential property, then there would be no smell, and the smell is worse than the noise. Dread the summer when one wants to open a window!