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Carrboro Aldermen Compromise on Drive-Thru Ban

By Danny Hooley Posted June 25, 2014 at 4:08 am

A proposal to broaden Carrboro’s 1998 ban on drive-throughs at downtown businesses to include other areas of town brought several citizens out to Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting.

Most of the citizens that spoke at the meeting were against the idea, and in the end, the Board came up with a compromise.

“Drive-thrus located in appropriate areas, and under specified guidelines, like those enacted in 1998, are amenities. By denying them, you jeopardize the commercial growth that might have followed. Lack of commercial growth threatens the broadening of our commercial tax base, thereby continuing to overburden the residential property owners.”

That’s Linda Lloyd, speaking at the summer’s final meeting of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. Her husband, Gene Lloyd, is a member of the family that owned and operated Lloyd Electric Company on Main Street for more than 50 years.

The family also owns 40 acres across from Carrboro Plaza on NC 54. The property is currently under contract under the name Lloyd Farm Development.

Lloyd was one of several citizens, including Kristen Smith from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, who came out to speak against a proposed ban on drive-thru features at all Carrboro developments, with the exception of pharmacies.

New drive-thrus were prohibited in the center of the downtown business area back in 1998 as part of Carrboro’s Land Use Ordinance. The Wendy’s drive-thru at the corner of Main and Greensboro Streets pre-dated that rule by about 15 years.

But the new resolution would ban drive-thrus from developments in other areas, such as Highway 54.
Lloyd’s arguments against prohibiting drive-thrus were similar to others that were presented during the public comments portion of the hearing. People said it would scare off businesses; that it discriminates against the elderly, the disabled, and parents with small and/or sick children.

They said it creates an inconvenience for commuters, and would cause consumers to spend money elsewhere.

But a couple of speakers expressed their support for the ban. Retired UNC academic adviser Barb Stenross lives on Carol Street, near the Lloyd Farm property.

“It’s right where I walk around,” said Stenross. “I’m a senior. I walk. I don’t feel comfortable on a bike. I wish I still did. But it’s very important for me to have a community that has trees, that has a good environment, that does not have traffic emissions.

“I’m fine with having a pharmacy drive-in, because I think that does serve families and the disabled. But I think this is a good ordinance.”

Carrboro Planning Board member Catherine Adamson reiterated that board’s recommendation – which was not unanimous, she added – to prohibit all drive-thrus, including pharmacies.

When it was time for alderpersons to speak, Damon Seils said that he’s received a lot of phone calls, emails, and personal visits about the issue recently, and it’s caused him to re-think the proposal.

“I have no doubt that there are negative environmental impacts of drive-thrus, and public health impacts of drive-thrus,” said Seils. “And that’s important to me. But as we know, there are also concerns about accessibility. And we’ve heard from several people both tonight, and in emails and elsewhere, about the importance of accessibility for people with limited mobility, and for their caregivers, which, I think, is another important point we’ve heard about recently.”

Seils made a motion to extend the ban to districts zoned for limited industrial use, as well as commercial uses that include wholesaling, storage, mail-order, auto-related businesses, offices and retail.

Areas include that part of Greensboro Street where Fitch Lumber is located; and the area along Jones Ferry Road near the Orange Water and Sewer Authority.

He added that drive-thrus in other areas should be a subject of future discussion.

Alderperson Michelle Johnson said that while she agreed with Seils’ motion more than the resolution before the board, she thought that everyone should be mindful that the environmental concerns of people like Barb Stenross, who live outside the downtown area, should not be dismissed.

“I can support what you’re saying, more than I could support a ban on all drive-thrus,” said Johnson, “because of the accessibility issues. And we’re all aging, too, so there’s going to be a point when we’re all rolling up to a drive-through, too, right?”

The Board of Aldermen passed Seils’ motion unanimously.

Alderpersons Randee Haven-O’Donnell and Jacquelyn Gist said they’d work together over the summer to plan some public forums in the fall regarding drive-thrus,to see what creative ideas may come out of that.

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