Environmentalists, disabled, businesses clash over drive-thru ban

Environmentalists, disabled, businesses clash over drive-thrus

By Christiana Wiens, Comox Valley EchoOctober 8, 2009

The public and businesses have had their say. Now it’s up to seven-member Comox council to determine the fate of future drive-thru businesses in the town.

A public hearing on a bylaw to limit drive-thru restaurants in Comox to two corners of Anderton and Guthrie Roads was dominated by debates on the environmental impact of idling, disabled access and the effect on businesses Wednesday night.

In the end, the green vote – those in favour of the bylaw that limits future drive thrus – outnumbered businesses, employees and people who spoke against the bylaw by a ratio of 2 to 1.

Perhaps the most passionate plea for the drive-thrus came from the tearful mother of an autistic child who quieted the room with her plea.

She said her family sometimes used drive-thrus because the noise and stimulus in the parking lot and restaurant was too much for her daughter.

"I want you to consider what you are doing very seriously," she said. "Please do not limit my family’s abilities."

Two of the town’s mobility challenged residents said further restrictions were a step back in time.

That argument seemed to resonate with the crowd who suggested a small cache of solutions might be attainable – including special parking and pick up spots for disabled residents and allowing handicapped parking notices, already used in cars, to be required for drive-thru use.

Several prominent Comox residents, including former rural director Barbara Price and Comox’s first freeman Alice Bullen applauded council for their courage to move forward with the bylaw.

Bullen commended town planning staff and suggested Comox join Gibsons, Harrison Hot Springs and Qualicum Beach in resisting drive-thru restaurants.

Bill Anglin, a director of Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce, spoke against it detailing the town’s decision-making process throughout the drive-thru debate.

He argued that the town had options of tabling the bylaw to its debate on the town’s master plan (the Official Community Plan) which begins in full next year.

Calling the bylaw "misguided and punitive," Anglin said idling made up one half of one per cent of the total emissions in a municipality.

That study was contrasted by data from the National Research Council on the effect of idling and CO2 emissions on climate change.

Throughout the meeting reference was made to not turning any street in Comox into the equivalent of Courtenay’s Cliffe Avenue.

Residents also argued not limiting drive-thrus was akin to banning recycling – every small action helped.

And long-time Comox resident Don Barber argued that the money spent locally by the Comox Valley Drive-Thru Coalition and the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservice Association would have been better spent promoting electric cars.

Tim Horton’s owner John Brocklehurst said the only way to curb long line-ups and reduce idling at the Comox location was to allow the restaurant to open a second location.

"If we’re not permitted to open another location the traffic will become worse," said Brocklehurst.



"Your words have been heard around the world. Let your actions now be seen. There is little time left. The opportunity and responsibility to avoid catastrophic climate change is in your hands."

Ban Ki-moon at the end of the Bangkok summit, which he convened in a bid to mobilize political will ahead of the Copenhagen meeting. October 8th, 2009

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