Aldermen nix proposed bank drive-thru

CorrespondentOctober 18, 2013 

  • In other business

    The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to begin the process for a comprehensive development plan.

    Although the town has development plans for different parts of town, it does not have an overall plan for how to grow.

    Some aldermen wondered whether preparing a comprehensive plan would mean starting all over, but Planning Director Trish McGuire assured them that the plans already in place could be rolled into a comprehensive plan.

— The Carrboro Board of Aldermen upheld its drive-thru windows ban Tuesday when it voted not to change zoning rules for a drive-thru at a possible bank on South Greensboro Street.

Woodhill LLC wants to build a commercial project on the 5.5 acre Rogers-Triem site and needs permission for drive-thru windows for banks in M-1 zones. Other examples of M-1 (light industrial) zoning include Fitch Lumber Co. on North Greensboro Street and the Mellott property on Jones Ferry Road across from OWASA.

The aldermen worry that allowing a bank drive-thru on the Rogers-Triem property would open the door for drive-thru windows on other M-1 sites.

At Tuesday’s aldermen meeting, developer Runyon Woods said bank drive-thrus are different from fast-food drive-thrus because banks are an essential service.

Mayor Mark Chilton suggested that elderly, disabled people and others who might feel uncomfortable walking out of a bank with cash might like drive-thru windows.

“I don’t love drive-thru windows, but I think I could live with it at that location,” he said. “But the problem is I’m not comfortable with changing M-1 because it affects the Fitch property and the other properties.”

Fifteen years ago, the aldermen decided they did not want drive-thru windows, especially downtown, because they wanted people to get out of their cars and walk. Vehicles sitting in a drive-thru line with their engines running also increases greenhouse gas emissions, they said.

Woods said if the town rejects amending the M-1 zoning, he might ask to rezone the property to B-4, which covers shopping centers that serve areas beyond the neighborhood where they are located.

One of the possible tenants for the Rogers-Triem property involves outdoor horticultural sales, and that is not allowed in a B-4 zone but would be in an M-1 zones, Woods said.

“I would rather add horticulture sales to B-4,” said Alderman Damon Seils.

The aldermen voted 5-2 to nix bank drive-thru windows in the M-1 zoning area. Jacquie Gist, Seils, Sammy Slade, Randee Haven-O’Donnell and Michelle Johnson voted in the majority. Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle joined Chilton in the minority.

Later Woods said he was considering his options for the site.

“Of the 34,000 square feet of retail space we’re creating in this plan, 2,500 square feet is a branch bank with a drive-thru window,” he said. “Given that ratio, a number of possible options will be possible, and I am studying them.”

Current plans for the site include retail and restaurants.

“We’re looking forward to a good mix of businesses, and we have a substantial amount of local interest both from retail stores and from restaurants,” Woods said.

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