CARRBORO — The Board of Aldermen backed off its plan to ban all new drive-through windows and voted to prohibit them only in areas near downtown.
The board had asked the staff to draft rules to prevent any new businesses, including banks, pharmacies and restaurants, from building drive-through windows. But after being flooded with emails and calls from people with a variety of opinions, they voted unanimously to ban them only in M-1 zoning districts.
The three M-1 zoning districts in town include an area around Fitch Lumber Co. on North Greensboro Street, the Rogers-Triem property at the bottom of South Greensboro Street and the area on both sides of the street near OWASA on Jones Ferry Road.
That means developers in areas zoned B-4, which includes some areas along N.C. 54, may apply for drive-through windows in their projects.
The aldermen wanted to prevent cars from idling as they waited in line and to promote Carrboro’s plan for a walkable community.
A number of people, however, argued that drive-through windows help the elderly, the disabled, their caregivers, the sick, and parents with small children take care of their business without having to get out of their vehicles.
Retiree Richard Ellington told the board during a public hearing Tuesday night that banning all drive-through windows would be elitist and discriminatory.
“The town doesn’t need to be making choices telling me how to conduct my life,” he said. “Not all the citizens are 20-somethings.”
Linda Lloyd, whose family owns a large piece of property known as the Lloyd Farm across from Carrboro Plaza at the corner of N.C. 54 and Old Fayetteville Road, was angry at the board and accused the members of trying to change the rules just as a developer is about to submit the final application to build a large mixed-use development on the property.
Plans call for it to contain multiple commercial buildings, including a grocery store, a pharmacy and a bank with a drive-through window, as well as an apartment complex.
“It feels very suspicious that this rush to push an unnecessary amendment through your system is aimed first and foremost at the Lloyd property,” she said.
She called it wrong and underhanded to try to change the rules at the 11th hour after the developer has spent three years working with the town to come up with a plan that meets all of Carrboro’s requirements.
“If it’s not illegal, it should be,” she said.
Barb Stenross, who lives on Carol Street near the Lloyd Farm property, asked the board to approve its original plan to ban all drive-through windows, except for pharmacies.
“If a drive-through goes in, it goes right in where I walk around,” she said.
“It’s very important to me to have a community that has trees, that has a good environment, that doesn’t have traffic emissions,” Stenross said.
After the public hearing closed, Alderman Damon Seils proposed the compromise that would completely ban drive-through windows in the downtown area but allow them in the commercial zones along N.C. 54, and after a bit of discussion in which board members said they wanted to make sure all residents had access to services, the board voted unanimously to apply the ban only to the M-1 zoning areas.