St. John’s city council has approved a third drive-thru at 46 Kenmount Rd. in the Avalon Mall parking lot where the Tom Woodford dealership once sat, but not all councillors supported the decision.
Just two weeks ago, council approved a coffee shop drive-thru and bank drive-thru at the same address in a 4-3 vote. This week, council approved a fast-food franchise with a drive-thru in a 6-2 vote.
Voting in favour of the drive-thru Monday evening were Mayor Danny Breen and councillors Dave Lane, Sandy Hickman, Deanne Stapleton, Jamie Korab and Wally Collins.
Voting against were Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary and Coun. Maggie Burton.
Absent from council Monday evening were councillors Ian Froude, Hope Jamieson and Debbie Hanlon. Froude is ward councillor for the area; he was absent for both votes on the drive-thrus.
When council approved the two drive-thrus in September, it was also decided that city staff would do a jurisdictional review of other Canadian municipalities to analyze various approaches to drive-thrus to find out, for example, what restrictions other areas have in place.
Breen estimates staff will bring that information back to council within a couple of months.
At that point, council can decide to do nothing, or send the information to several committees to get their perspectives, such as committees dealing with inclusion and sustainability, among others.
Council can then seek public input before making a final decision about how they will approach decisions about drive-thrus in the future.
Business, environmental concerns
Meanwhile, O’Leary said if the jurisdictional review takes too long, or the process becomes too cumbersome, she might bring forward a motion to put a moratorium on new drive-thru applications until the process is complete.
“We have had, obviously, a long history of drive-thrus in the city, but we’ve turned a corner now in terms of knowing the things that we have to try to address in terms of planning for the city, especially in terms of environmental sustainability,” O’Leary told The Telegram after the council meeting.
She said she is hopeful the jurisdictional review won’t take too long.
“Personally, I would like to see a moratorium on any new applications until that actually happens. … Sometimes you have to take pause when you know that you’re going down a road that, ultimately, we don’t need to be going down, or need to continue. And when we see these best practices happening in other areas, I think that we need to take heed.”
For now, O’Leary said she will wait to see how quickly staff complete the review.
Breen said he understands the environmental and health-related concerns people have expressed recently about drive-thrus.
However, he said he’s heard other concerns, too.
“There’s concerns from businesspeople who feel that they have business models that they’ve developed, and they’re looking at, and that drive-thrus have become a significant part of their business.
“So, because we’re making a decision that will change or alter all those things, we need to make sure that we’re doing a thorough review.”
The drive-thru application came to council for approval because it will be located within 150 metres of a residential area and a place of worship, and therefore it is a discretionary use application in which council can approve or reject it based on what the regulations stipulate, as well as in consideration of public feedback.
"Sometimes you have to take pause when you know that you’re going down a road that, ultimately, we don’t need to be going down, or need to continue." — Sheilagh O'Leary
This particular application received just one written submission from the public, asking that council ensure it is a new franchise not already in the city. Breen said he’s not sure what the specific restaurant will be, other than a national fast-food franchise.
The drive-thru applications from two weeks ago received four written submissions against the proposals, and none in favour.
The applications have spurred much public debate about drive-thrus. Some people say they are a necessary convenience, especially for people with mobility concerns, while others say they increase fossil fuel emissions and traffic congestion.
Breen said he doesn’t see any traffic concerns having three drive-thrus in the one area on Kenmount Road, because they are located on the Avalon Mall's parking lot.