Cumberland | Village puts lid on downtown drive-thrus

Village puts lid on downtown drive-thrus

By Tamara Cunningham, Comox Valley Echo April 1, 2011

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If people want a bite to eat in Cumberland’s downtown core, they’ll have to step out of their car to get it.

Council hopes to protect the heritage-look of the village with a new downtown ban on drive-thru restaurants.

An amended bylaw will only allow fast food eateries with drive-trhus to set up on along the highway interchange where a large development company expects to build.

Mayor Fred Bates thinks the limitations are a middle ground on the issue.

Drive-thrus provide travelers with a degree of safety, he said, but by keeping them out of the downtown core, the village can maintain its character.

Coun. Leslie Baird agreed there’s no problem with the service "as long as it’s out on the highway."

Drive-thrus have become a safe and timely way for travelers to grab a snack and will encourage people to stop on the way towards their destination, Baird said.

Cumberland is the latest Canadian municipality to mull over whether there’s still a place for drive-thru restaurants in light of air quality issues and greenhouse gas emissions.

Comox was steeped in controversy two years ago when it introduced a drive-thru bylaw over pollutant concerns.

Environmentalists, residents and fast food workers squared off over the issue for eight months, forming coalitions and creating petitions.

The debate came to a head in October 2009 when council decided to restrict drive-thrus to two sites in Comox, where fast food restaurants already operate.

Bates said the village is seeking to be proactive on the issue before it finds itself in the same place Comox did.

The village is currently drive-thru free, but with several large development companies considering restaurants, boutiques and hotels – realizes it might not be for long.

Council reviewed everything from fast food’s contribution to distracted driving and obesity to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution during its public meeting, Monday.

Councillors Gwyn Sproule and Kate Greening called for a complete ban on drive-thrus, concerned about litter and environmental impacts, but were outvoted 2-3.

"They started (these) in the 1930s when the motor car was just coming in and when there was endless fuel, now we are past peak oil and realize the dangers to the planet of burning fossil fuels," Sproule said.

Cumberland is well positioned to set targets on reducing greenhouse gases and drive-thru restaurants will only make that more difficult, she added.

"This would up our targets rather than reduce them, and it doesn’t fit with our image as a sustainable community," Sproule said.

Greening pointed out that Trilogy has offered up a pedestrian friendly, outdoor shopping experience in its development application. She isn’t sure where drive-thru services fit into that.

Council voted to limit drive-thrus to the highway. If permitted, businesses might also have to abide by design guidelines, like setbacks and sound barriers.

Council has also agreed to consider a new an anti-idling bylaw, which could reverse this latest decision and allow only for curbside ventures.

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