COVID-19 saves the day for proposed drive-thru restaurant in Kelowna - InfoNews

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COVID-19 saves the day for proposed drive-thru restaurant in Kelowna

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
May 14, 2020 - 4:20 PM

The COVID-19 pandemic has been blamed for many things over the past few weeks – from killing seniors in long-term care homes to devastating the tourism and restaurant industries.

But, earlier this week (May 12), Kelowna city councillors used it as one reason to go against a staff recommendation and approve a drive-thru restaurant.

“COVID changed everything,” Coun. Charlie Hodge said. “It changed the way we think, the way we live, the way we play, the way we work. In some ways, it has made things like drive-thru restaurants and other facilities like that, much more valuable.”

This was in stark contrast to the only councillor who voted against the drive-thru, Ryan Donn.

“We don’t build cities based on pandemics,” he said. “We build cities based on what’s best for the city.”

To do otherwise, he suggested, would result in doing things like rejecting high rise buildings because it’s tough to safe-distance in elevators.

At issue was a proposed Chevron gas station and Triple O’s restaurant at the corner of Sexsmith Road and Highway 97. Since it’s in an industrial zone, drive thrus are not a permitted use. Council, by an 8-1 vote, agreed to grant a variance and allow it.

“Thank god we had drive thrus in the last eight weeks, and curbside pickup, because I think it would be very difficult for a lot of people and a lot of families if we didn’t have it,” Coun. Maxine DeHart said, noting she’s been through quite a few since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Coun. Mohini Singh said “drive-thru coffee is a lifesaver for me in the morning.”

Staff opposition to the project was based on a long-existing city plan to, eventually, prohibit all future drive thrus as one way to decrease greenhouse gas emissions because of the time spent idling in line-ups.

That plan has been talked about since 2012 and was part of an updated climate action plan endorsed by council in 2018.

Coun. Brad Sieben, who was a member of that 2018 council, suggested the decision was made 10 years ago when there weren’t electric cars or “stop-and-go” vehicles that shut off when idling.

“We’re not looking at the short term,” he said. “We’re looking at five, 10, 15 years out. My vehicle is electric and there are more to come, so we’re building for the future.”

That echoed comments made earlier by Coun. Luke Stack.

“I do believe the real solution is to have people change their vehicles to less emissions and not outlaw drive-thrus,” he said. “I go through one every single day in my life, literally, but I drive an electric vehicle so I don’t have any issue with emissions.”

Mayor Colin Basran said he supported the application reluctantly because it was in an industrial area of the city that is very car-oriented. That means people who go to the restaurant will likely already be in their cars, not getting in just to go there.

Drive-thrus in town centres would not be appropriate, he said.

For Donn, it wasn’t so much about emissions as it was about traffic congestion.

“We have the highest car usage per capita in Canada and we’re trying to shift it from 95 per cent of people using their cars all the time to 90,” he said. “What that means is removing some of the options and making it a little less easy to use your vehicle.”

Again, he was a lone voice in the wilderness.

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