Moratorium halts drive-through bids

By John J. Hopkins Times

There will be no new businesses with drive-through lanes approved in Cheektowaga for three months after the town board voted Monday to impose a 90-day moratorium on these on these types of ventures to study town codes regulating their operation.

There is no specific town ordinance governing drive-through businesses, and the portion of the code that comes closest to dealing with them is 40 years old and was written with banks in mind, town officials say.

Since then, drive-through service has expanded beyond banks to now include fast-food restaurants, coffee shops, car washes and more. During the last year, two doughnut chains have aggressively expanded in the area, and both seek drivethrough lanes for their new locations.

One of the by-products of drivethrough lanes is the potential for vehicles to queue up along roads before turning into the restaurant’s driveway.

"This has been a serious concern for the past few years," said Supervisor Mary F. Holtz.

When Dunkin Donuts and Tim Hortons both applied for drivethrough locations along a busy portion of William Street, the board decided to act.

A handful of residents supported the moratorium during a public hearing on the issue Monday. Some of the most vocal moratorium supporters were residents who live near a proposed Dunkin Donuts site at the

the iceberg," said James Didas of Ceil Drive. "The William Street corridor is at its max for traffic. Are taxpaying residents in control, or is business?"

Joe Przemielewski of Raymond Avenue said he is not against drivethrough service, calling it an "American way of life," but said he takes exception when the drive-throughs disrupt daily life.

We have to regulate them so that they’re not interfering with the quality of life of residents," Przemielewski said. "We have to watch where they’re placed, how they’re placed and how close to residents."

Former Councilmember Tom Johnson said that the proximity of drive-through businesses to major intersections and interchanges with New York State Thruway should considered before approving a site.

Speaking on behalf of the Planning Board, John Marriott said that traffic related to drive-through businesses appears to be on the rise. However, there is another concern with the lanes.

The trend is to keep the drivethrough windows open 24 hours a day, even though the restaurant is closed," Marriott observed.

However, Didas took issue with a recent decision by the Planning Board to recommend approval of a Tim Hortons drive-through kiosk at Express Mart on the northwest corner of the William-Union Road intersection.

The planning board’s approval came with a provision that it would revoke approval if traffic related to drive-through backs up onto Union Road.

How can the planning board give approval and then have the right to revoke after the fact?" Didas asked. I don’t understand that scenario. Fix it before it gets broken." 

The town board has not acted on the Tim Hortons location.

Johnson said Traffic Safety Committee members believe Cheektowaga lacks appropriate standards to evaluate potential drive-through sites.

"The 12-car minimum on-site queue is insufficient," Johnson said. "We must address gap time and frequency at access-egress lanes."

Steve Klinger of Denise Drive said that westbound traffic queuing up along William at the Raymond Dunkin Donuts won’t be as large a problem as will eastbound traffic.

"They’re going to want to make a left turn across two lanes," Klinger said. "They’re going to back up underneath the Thruway bridge and the exit ramp will back up on the Thruway."

Johnson suggested that loading and unloading areas, plus the type of delivery vehicles should also be regulated.

Other considerations should be made for pedestrian access, lines-of sight and on-site parking, Johnson said.

Johnson noted the Environmental Advisory Committee believes there should be minimum setbacks for idling vehicles and drive-through speakers where a business abuts residential properties.

The Planning Board’s Marriott agreed.

"Because they’re open 24-hours a day, you have that speaker going off all night long," Marriott said. "It’s become a real nuisance."

Christine Czajka of Raymond Avenue said she does not want to live 20 feet away from a drive through where dozens of vehicles are backing up.

"Consider the residents when you make your decision," Czajka said.

Her sentiments were echoed by Tom Bollman of Vern Lane.

"I can’t fathom the thought of having 18 cars along my fence line with 12 kids playing in the back yard," Bollman stated.

Didas also pointed to an abundance of vacant commercial properties around town as another reason why new locations should not be approved.

"You don’t need to change zones," Didas said. "Fill up the vacant properties first."





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