N. Idaho city looking at banning drive-throughs

Last updated April 12, 2009 11:30 a.m. PT

N. Idaho city looking at banning drive-throughs


SANDPOINT, Idaho — Residents in this northern Idaho city might have to start waving bye bye to drive-through businesses.

A proposal to prohibit drive-through services recently passed the city’s planning and zoning commission and goes before the city council in May.

If approved the ordinance would regulate drive-through restaurants, banks, coffee shops, pharmacies, dry cleaners and other businesses that cater to customers in cars.

Existing drive-through businesses would be allowed to continue but not rebuild.

“Conceivably, as these existing drive-throughs degrade if they’re not maintained, this could lead to a Sandpoint of the future with no drive-throughs,” City Planner Jeremy Grimm told the Bonner County Daily Bee.

The proposed change is one of many being considered as part of a strategy to handle new growth and reflect the city’s recently completed comprehensive plan aimed at making a more attractive city.

Opponents say the drive-through ban will hurt the economy, and Dick Hutter resigned from the planning commission last week amid concerns the changes will harm the city.

“I don’t agree with the direction that Sandpoint is going,” he said. “I don’t like the lack of parking downtown. I don’t like the interference with stores and I don’t like the anti-corporate nature of what’s been happening.”

Other possible changes include a conditional use permit for new or expanding businesses with a building footprint larger than 20,000 square feet. The businesses would be required to submit to nine new planning standards, including surface parking requirements and pedestrian circulation.

New rules also look at banning the use of fluorescent or metallic colors as part of the plan to have “exterior building materials and colors that are aesthetically pleasing.”

“We’re not preventing them from developing their property or building or investing in this community,” said Grimm. “We’re just setting some constraints on it and I think this is very far from depriving someone of the reasonable use of their property.”

Councilman John Reuter introduced the ban on drive-throughs. But he said proposed changes might not make it into the permanent zoning changes, which the council hopes to have finished within a year.

“I think it makes sense for a temporary, stopgap zone to be fairly restrictive,” Reuter said. “I think we need to have a serious conversation about where drive-throughs are appropriate and where they are not. At the end of that discussion maybe we’ll decide that drive-throughs are never appropriate, but I don’t think we’re at that stage yet.”

Local real-estate agent Kitty Eyestone doesn’t like the proposed changes.

“Business owners are shaking their heads and asking, ‘What’s next?” she said.


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