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Vernon council stalls drive-thru curb request

Staff looks to amend zoning bylaw to prohibit new drive-thrus in all city zones except one
The City of Vernon wants input from four of its committees before approving a staff recommendation to amend a zoning bylaw that would prohibit new drive-thru services and drive-thru vehicular services in all city zones except for light industrial. (Google Street View)

A staff-driven plan to remove drive-thru services from a Vernon zoning bylaw has city council driving for more input.

Improving traffic flow and reducing idling where drive-thrus are still allowed is also part of the plan.

The changes would prohibit drive-thru uses in all commercial and mixed-use zoning districts city-wide. Those currently in operation would be grandfathered. Light industrial areas would be exempt.

Vernon’s City Centre Neighbourhood Plan – which forms part of the Official Community Plan – provides policy direction for development and redevelopment within the city centre. There are two policies that direct the prohibition of drive-thrus.

Staff, though, has not been able to uphold these policies since Zoning Bylaw 5000 currently allows drive-thru services and drive-thru vehicle services as permitted uses in zoning districts within the city centre (a drive-thru service is one where customers order and receive food or other goods in their vehicles via a designated lane; drive-thru vehicle services are things like car washes, oil changes where a customer typically stays in a vehicle).

Council has also endorsed the city’s Climate Acton Plan which directs the city to be a leader in climate action and develop a clean air strategy.

“Beyond specific policies related to drive-thrus, the city’s high-level goals support a healthier and more compact city,” said the staff report. “Drive-thru uses contradict these goals as they use large spaces for vehicle queuing and promote driving and sedentary behaviour.”

The staff report was a hot topic of conversation at the Dec. 12 council meeting.

“There are businesses that do line up, like car washes, especially in the winter, and it’s guaranteed their cars are running,” said Coun. Kari Gares. “Are we prepared we might be limiting businesses that could set up shop within the city centre? Is that what we want to do.”

Coun. Kelly Fehr, a self-confessed drive-thru regular for coffee, said the more he thought about the proposal, the more he realized how easy it is for people to adjust their patterns.

“It means getting off my butt, whether it’s for a car wash or for a coffee, I don’t have to go through a drive-thru,” he said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction here. It’s just a matter of people adjusting the way they behave.”

Added Coun. Brian Quiring: “There are some changing models in auto industry, looking at how we service vehicles and this (recommendation) would hurt that. We need to be careful here.”

Coun. Brian Guy said the issues don’t have to be solved by council in one day.

“The main recommendation is to send the idea to various council committees,” he said. “Let’s get feedback from these guys.”

Council voted unanimously to send the staff request to the city’s Transportation Advisory Committee, Climate Action Advisory Committee, Economic Development Advisory Committee and Advisory Planning Committee for review and comment.

Coun. Akbal Mund recused himself from the discussions and did not vote.

The current drive-thru services within the city include:

• 20 food and beverage services (i.e. fast food and coffee);

• six financial services (i.e. drive-thru ATM);

• eight car washes (i.e. coin-operated and automated);

• three rapid vehicle services (i.e. oil change); and

• one liquor primary service.

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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