After being served a resounding dish of voices against the District of Squamish’s proposed ban on new drive-throughs, officials withdrew the suggestion from the table. But the topic is far from decided.
Residents packed council chambers on Tuesday (Feb. 18) to have their say on an omnibus bylaw that moved forward a collection of unrelated Official Community Plan (OCP) changes. While the proposed amendments included everything from the use of shipping containers as building materials to an arts and cultural partnership with First Nations, the crowd was there for one thing — drive-throughs.
The purpose of the proposed OCP ban on new drive-throughs was to hand council the discretion when assessing such proposals, Coun. Doug Race said. There are 27 Squamish properties zoned to allow drive-throughs. Six of these lots currently are the sites of the town’s eight drive-throughs.
McDonald’s restaurant employs 66 Squamish residents, with the average salary sitting at $13 per hour and managers earning up to $100,000 a year, the franchise owner Jim Pike told council.
The proposed ban would hurt the community’s job pool, Pike said, adding he wasn’t confident that the amendment would fully protect existing drive-throughs.
The regulation’s intent was to grandfather in existing businesses so they could continue operating, district planner Sabina Foofat said. However, under the proposal, if the drive-through use was discontinued for six months, it couldn’t be picked up again without a zoning amendment, she noted.
It might take more than six months to rebuild a drive-through destroyed by a fire or other calamity, warned Don Schroeder, owner of the Squamish Wendy’s restaurant franchise. The proposed ban also boxes in the business owners’ ability to negotiate property leases, he said, noting with no options to move, rent would go sky-high.
“To be honest, it scares me,” he said.
Instead of banning new drive-throughs as a tool to get people to stop in Squamish and get out of their vehicles, district officials could invest the time and money needed to implement the change on signage, Squamish Chamber of Commerce president Chris Pettingill suggested. If the district is trying to curb greenhouse gas emissions from idling, promote healthy eating and ease waste produced by the industry, council should tackle these issues directly, he added.
“When we talk about a ban, that doesn’t necessarily address concerns,” Pettingill said, noting such a ban would affect all business ventures that included drive-through components.
Three residents spoke in favour of the ban. The community is at a crossroads, Chris Laundy said. Residents have to look long-term at Squamish’s image, he said.
“I don’t think that Squamish and fast food go together,” Laundy said.
While council wants more say over such developments, Mayor Rob Kirkham suggested it may be more prudent to examine them on a case-by-case basis.
Council unanimously yanked the drive-through amendment out of the OCP omnibus bylaw, but will look at the issue as a potential amendment to the zoning bylaw. The amendment was originally included in a proposed omnibus zoning bylaw, but now will be examined separately. District staff will explore if and where drive-throughs should be allowed and whether the use requires certain guidelines.
“We will look through that in future discussions,” Kirkham said.