CARRBORO – The Town of Carrboro is asking for public input about whether drive-thoughs should be allowed at future pharmacies.
There are very few existing drive-through lanes at downtown businesses in Carrboro. They’re at a handful of banks and fast-food restaurants, including Wendy’s, Arby’s and Burger King.
Those have been around for a while. The Carrboro Board of Aldermen is not eager to add more.
“What is Carrboro supposed to look like in 20, 30, 50 years?” said Alderperson Damon Seils. “When I think about Carrboro in that time span, I don’t think of a community where drive-throughs are a reasonable land use.”
Town Staff and the Board of Aldermen are concerned about the environmental impact of vehicles idling in drive-through lanes.
They want to promote the concept of walkability. In their view, getting out of cars encourages people to pop into more downtown businesses while running errands.
But the drive-through issue won’t go away. The Board received some applications for drive-throughs as a feature of development last year.
Aldermen responded by directing Town staff to draft an amendment that took drive-throughs completely off the table for all future developments.
The discussion at Tuesday night’s Alderman meeting did not end with a final vote on that. It was just a check-in from Town staff, which is still in the process of researching the topic.
When it was time for Aldermen to offer comments, Alderperson Randee Haven-O’Donnell said she’s been asking Carrboro residents what kind of drive-through they would consider essential to their daily lives.
Here’s what one person told her:
“One mother explained how hard it was to bundle the children up, the sick child, take them to the pharmacy, and walk them into the pharmacy, with them being ill, and how nightmarish that was.”
Haven-O’Donnell added that it’s an issue for some seniors, too.
The idea of making an exception for pharmacies got some initial pushback.
Alderperson Damon Seils pointed out that Carrboro Family Pharmacy offers delivery to some customers, and that seemed to him to be the more sensible solution.
Alderperson Michelle Johnson said she understood how important the issue is to seniors. But she’s skeptical about drive-throughs.
“I have a parent who can’t walk, so I understand that it’s a need, and access is really important, she said, but added: “I want to encourage us to think about other mechanisms.”
Alderperson Sammy Slade said that the Town could perhaps reach out to local pharmacies about adding or expanding delivery services to those in need.
At the end of the discussion, Aldermen voted to direct Town staff to draft the ordinance prohibiting any more drive-throughs.
But this time, they left open the possibility of considering pharmacy drive-through requests in the future, pending more study.
And Alderperson Haven-O’Donnell had this request for Carrboro citizens:
“Chime in. You know, when we don’t hear from you, there’s this tacit assumption that you either don’t care, or you don’t have the need.”