Drive-thrus might still have a future in Kelowna outside the main town centre areas, city councillors say.
Council, by an 8-1 vote on Tuesday, went against a staff recommendation not to approve a new drive-thru at the northwest corner of Highway 97 North and Sexsmith Road.
Staff had said drive-thrus were “not a necessity” and that vehicle emissions from idling vehicles produced greenhouse gases that caused climate change.
But councillors took the position that the proposed location was a reasonable site for a Triple O’s restaurant with a drive-thru, partly because there are already two other drive-thrus – a Tim Hortons and a McDonald’s – at the intersection.
Some councillors also noted drive-thrus are particularly busy these days with in-restaurant dining options closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the future uncertainty surrounding restaurant operations, drive-thrus are likely to remain popular and useful for many people, councillors said.
As well, there were observations from some councillors that vehicles are increasingly fuel efficient, with newer models producing less greenhouse gas emissions than older cars and trucks.
Planning staff intend to eventually bring forward a proposal to ban drive-thrus in all areas of Kelowna.
At Tuesday’s meeting, councillors were not being asked to comment on that idea directly, as it’s a decision for a future meeting.
Nevertheless, some councillors said they could envision a ban on new drive-thrus in town centres – like downtown Kelowna, central Rutland, and the South Pandosy district – where the city’s general aim is to encourage more walkable areas, with a mix of residential, commercial and office uses, rather than additional car-oriented development.
But some councillors indicated they would likely continue to support new drive-thru proposals along high traffic corridors, like Highway 97.