Drive-thrus lining up despite bylaw | The race to secure a drive-thru location in Comox is on.

Drive-thrus lining up despite bylaw

By Christiana Wiens, Comox Valley EchoSeptember 18, 2009

The race to secure a drive-thru location in Comox is on.

Comox council passed first and second reading of a bylaw to restrict future drive-thrus within its borders Wednesday, but it may already be too late to stop them from multiplying before council’s eyes.

The town received an application on July 28 to bring two more drive-thrus to the northeast corner of McDonald and Guthrie Roads. The application came in roughly two weeks after council passed its resolution to prohibit future drive-thrus.

The application – brought forward by developer Harold Long – makes room for at least four commercial buildings on the site, including two drive-thrus. It requires a rezoning from residential to mixed use commercial to proceed.

"My application was in prior to the [drive-thru] bylaw," said Long. "I would hope anything in progress is grandfathered in."

Long says he didn’t rush the application to beat the new bylaw. Rather, the site was delayed for six months while the town discussed traffic and how to properly blend commercial and residential space.

The rezoning has not yet come to council and the proposed businesses have not yet been secured.

In addition, a proposed Starbucks at the corner of Guthrie and Anderton Roads has moved out of the way for an A & W fast food chain.

Town administrator Richard Kanigan says Starbucks could build on the site at a later date, and has every right to have a drive-thru. That move, though speculative, would bring the total drive-thru outlets to seven.

Meanwhile, Tim Hortons continued its presence at Comox Council Wednesday, bringing in their corporate vice president Nick Javor and the author of an air quality study to plead its case before council made their decision.

"We understand that our drive-thru business is not welcome in Comox," Javor told council.

RWDI Consulting, hired by Tim Hortons to study air quality issues said there was no real difference in emissions at restaurants with a drive -thru and those without.

The data, said Javor, is the most detailed available in Canada on drive-thru emissions and should be considered credible, even though the coffee chain paid for it.

The data was collected at four drive-thru restaurants and one non-drive thru and extrapolated through sensitivity testing, said Wellburn.

Local Tim Hortons owner John Brocklehurst said in an interview that he had no intention of moving his donut shop to the McDonald Road site. He told council that he had also just signed a 10-year lease for the Anderton Road location.

He admits the site can be a traffic headache, and showed pictures of new traffic patterns and arrows he hopes will ease congestion, at least temporarily.

"We recognize that it’s too small but the only option is to open another location," said Brocklehurst.

The pleas fell short on a determined council who voted 4-2 to pass the bylaws and proceed to public hearing anyway.

"This is a conversation the community wants to have," said councillor Ray Crossley, adding that he’s looking forward to the public hearing.

Only councillors Tom Grant and Ken Grant voted against the motion.

Councillor Ken Grant said the issue could be a waste of time, considering it would come up at an official community plan review regardless.

"I can not even imagine how you can proceed with this," he said. "It makes no sense at all."

Councillor Tom Grant however said he was surprised at how many letters to the town on the issue came from the Council of Canadians in Ontario and questioned whether the town was being played by big labour who didn’t like the idea of low paying entry level jobs for children.

"We’re being used as stooges for big Ontario labour and I’m deeply concerned," he said.

That sparked Councillor Russ Arnott to question the big corporate presence of Tim Hortons.

"You talk about big labour, but the representatives of Tim Hortons are here. Are we not being stooges to big corporations?" he asked.

A public hearing on the bylaw will be held at Comox’s d’Esterre House at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7.

The two proposed drive-thru restaurants at MacDonald Road will also require a public hearing, if the application gets past first and second reading at council.


Under the terms of the town’s drive-thru bylaw, the drive-thru restaurants are permitted only on two properties – where they are now at Anderton and Guthrie Roads and the new Highland Shopping area being constructed across the street. Any future application can still come to council, through the rezoning process.

The new bylaw wording limits drive-thru outlets to a C3.1 zone and the two properties at Anderton and Guthrie Roads.

Any other developments, still have the right to ask for rezoning and be considered by council individually.

“Climate policy is characterized by the habituation of low expectations and a culture of failure. There is an urgent need to understand global warming and the tipping points for dangerous impacts that we have already crossed as a sustainability emergency that takes us beyond the politics of failure-inducing compromise. We are now in a race between climate tipping points and political tipping points.”
David Spratt, Philip Sutton, Climate Code Red, Australia, Published July, 2008

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