Most aldermen said they did not want any drive-thru windows in Carrboro. During a meeting earlier this month, the aldermen asked town staff to craft a ban on all drive-thrus for the board to vote on during a future meeting.
In 1998, the Board of Aldermen adopted a permit policy for drive-thrus, which allows certain businesses to build drive-thrus by obtaining a conditional use permit, which requires a public hearing .
The proposed ban might exclude future pharmacies — the aldermen said they wanted to be more informed about pharmacy drive-thrus before making a final decision about them.
Alderwoman Randee Haven-O’Donnell said she doesn’t see the point in allowing most drive-thrus.
“Drive-thrus in general don’t appear to be essential,” she said. “I think that when you look at it in total and you realize what drive-thrus actually do. They keep people from walking. They force people to use vehicles.”
She said she does understand the potential benefits of drive-thru pharmacies, like their convenience for the disabled and adults with small children.
There isn’t a drive-thru pharmacy in either Carrboro or Chapel Hill, and Haven-O’Donnell said she is not convinced residents want one.
“I’m trying to get some feedback from the community as to whether or not they actually have that need,” she said. “If that is what the community wants, the community needs to come out and tell us.”
Professor of City and Regional Planning Todd BenDor said prohibiting drive-thrus won’t stifle development in the town.
“It’s more the typical opposition to drive-thrus that is usually based around kind of an opposition to chains,” he said.
“Most of that is around preserving the community character, which is something Carrboro’s been very strong about for a really long time.”
But BenDor said some non-chain stores with drive-thrus are opening up in the area.
“There’s definitely been a lot of towns that have been very opposed to that kind of christening of a lot of fast food restaurants,” BenDor said.
“But you are starting to see drive-thrus at places that are local-like. A really good example of this is Bean & Barrel in Governor’s Village.”
Banning drive-thrus would negatively affect the environment, according to an EPA study on extending vehicle idling.
The report shows the hot start of a car — which occurs when a person parks their car briefly to grab takeout and then restarts it — is actually considerably more environmentally damaging than the idling emissions from cars waiting in drive-thrus. The carbon monoxide emissions from a hot start would be nine times as much versus idling while waiting in line, according to the study.
But Chris Mylan , spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency’s office of Transportation and Air Quality, said he does think the impact of a drive-thru ban would be significant.
“I don’t know if banning drive-thrus would just logically cut down on emissions too much,” he said.