Mississauga takes aim at drive-throughs


Councillors propose new guidelines to limit their spread, ease traffic problems


Jan 16, 2008 04:30 AM


The ubiquitous suburban drive-through is under attack in Mississauga.

Councillors have decided to send proposed planning guidelines, which could restrict the spread of drive-through restaurants, to the city’s newly minted environment committee for review.

"I’ve always felt we had too many drive-throughs … It’s a problem," Mayor Hazel McCallion said yesterday. "I don’t think we can ban them, but we certainly have to get them under strict control."

McCallion said she’s tried to have them restricted in the past because of concerns over air pollution caused by idling cars and bad designs that put pedestrians at risk or cause a traffic nightmare.

But she’s never had enough backing on council. This time, she has the support of newer councillors such as George Carlson, chair of the environmental advisory committee, and Carolyn Parrish.

The Mississauga guidelines, five years in the making and similar to those imposed by Toronto in 2005, could make it impossible to create drive-throughs on small lots because of required setbacks from homes and the street. They also frown on designs that force pedestrians to walk across drive-through lanes to get into the restaurant.

The guidelines say that where possible, access should be right turns in and right turns out only to avoid traffic backups on main streets.

The industry had balked at guidelines it deemed too restrictive if imposed citywide, so planners came up with a compromise, allowing the rules to be implemented on a site-by-site basis. "It doesn’t mean we are watering down," said planner Andrew McNeil. "But it does give us some flexibility."

That flexibility doesn’t sit well with Carlson and Parrish, who want the environment committee to take a look at developing actual bylaws.

The committee, with McCallion’s backing, is also pushing to create an anti-idling bylaw similar to Toronto’s, under which drivers who idle for more than several minutes can be ticketed.

Parrish has asked staff to study legal precedents for limiting or even eliminating drive-throughs, report on their locations and suggest strategies to lessen their effects. Staff didn’t consider environmental issues when they drew up the guidelines, she said.

"It’s a case where we have to show leadership," Carlson said. "It’s not just an environmental issue. It affects the city’s culture and streetscapes and is about what kind of city we want to build."

Rob Evans, president of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, said yesterday his group had worked with the city on the guidelines. He also said they could pose challenges to members.

"We accept that we have to work with municipalities, be responsible to the environment and our customers," said Evans. However, he added, "any time a guideline or a rule or a regulation is introduced which distracts or reduces revenues and results in job loss, it is absolutely a concern to us."

Tim Hortons vice-president Nick Javor, who also worked with the city, said the company supports site-by-site application of rules instead of a blanket zoning bylaw.

"Every site has its peculiarities," said Javor. Customers, especially people with mobility problems and families with young children, have repeatedly told the company they appreciate the convenience of drive-throughs, he said.

He acknowledged that drive-through designs change over time. All Tim Hortons wants, he said, is to have input in future decisions.

Guidelines in both Toronto and Mississauga have arisen from situations where a particular location caused problems to residents.

McCallion decried one at Britannia Rd. and Hurontario St., where lineups sometimes back onto a busy street, and pedestrians are forced to dodge cars waiting in line.

In Toronto, the guidelines came about after a bitter fight by residents against a proposed McDonald’s drive-through on St. Clair Ave. W. near Bathurst St., which ended when McDonald’s withdrew its application. Toronto’s guidelines encourage use of a pedestrian entrance via the sidewalk. The drive-through itself should have access from a small side street and exit onto a main street.


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