Carrboro expands drive-thru ban

Jun. 25, 2014 @ 05:23 PM

Carrboro leaders voted Tuesday to expand an existing ban on new drive-thrus for banks and restaurants to cover additional districts in and near its downtown.
The Board of Aldermen voted 7-0 to limit drive-thrus to two downtown districts, and to allow them to continue to be developed in commercial zoning districts along N.C. 54, said Alderman Damon Seils. Although the ban applies to future drive-thrus at banks, restaurants and other businesses in two zoning districts in and near the town’s downtown, drive-thru pharmacies will still be allowed.
“If we are going to have drive-thrus, it’s important for us to locate them in appropriate areas so we can minimize the costs they’re associated with,” Seils said. “Given the size of Carrboro and the fact that we really don’t have a lot of room to grow in Carrboro, it’s important to be thoughtful about how we use our land.”
The board’s move expanded an existing ban on drive-thrus downtown that was first implemented in 1998. Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said the existing ban already included parts of downtown, but she said the town has grown since then. So it now includes two new zoning districts that cover only four areas off North Greensboro Street, Jones Ferry Road, and South Greensboro Street.
“I think the board in 1998 made a good decision to limit the use of drive-thrus downtown for walkability, and for some goals we’re trying to reach downtown trying to reduce idling, trying to reduce traffic backing up,” she said.
Lavelle said that town leaders heard from residents who had opinions on both sides of the argument, including from some residents who wanted to have some drive-thrus to serve people who have accessibility issues or parents with young children.
“I heard compelling arguments for still allowing (drive-thru) businesses,” she said.
Drive-thrus will now be limited to zoning districts off of N.C. 54 that include several shopping centers. But Seils said that even in districts where drive-thrus are allowed, developers who want to add new drive-thru businesses will have to get a conditional use permit from the board.
Seils also said the ban doesn’t apply to the town’s seven existing drive-thrus. The town has a Wendy’s downtown, a Burger King off Jones Ferry Road, and an Arby’s off N.C. 54 at Carrboro Plaza. The other four are drive-thru banks, and two of them are downtown.
Alderman Michelle Johnson said she supported the ban because she felt it was the best solution to a complex issue, citing concerns for people with accessibility issues and who support drive-thrus for convenience reasons. She also said the move allowed the 1998 ban to cover the full downtown.
“Everyone thought we had banned (drive-thrus) downtown, and we actually hadn’t,” she said.
But she also had concerns that it didn’t go far enough. She said that a developer has shown interest in building out what’s known as the Lloyd property across from Carrboro Plaza on N.C. 54, which is one of the areas that the ban would not apply to. She said developers have shown interest in possibly building a new grocery store, space for restaurants, or residences there.
“There’s a neighborhood that’s right next to it,” she said. “In essence we’re saying that our values around environmental impacts of drive-thrus and planning we’re just applying to downtown … and so that’s my concern about it.”