Additional requirements for drive-thrus were approved by the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission at its regular Thursday meeting after months of work sessions.
The changes were made as amendments to the city’s Unified Development Code, which was first made in 2017 to set standards for zoning and development, and is now being revisited to ensure it is working as intended.
The rules apply to newly made drive-thrus, and senior planner Clint Smith said existing drive-thrus are not expected to change in order to comply with the new code.
A new rule was added that requires drive-thru lines to not interfere with parking areas or internal circulation.
Another rule prohibits service windows from facing public streets, but exceptions will be made if the business adds adequate screening walls or vegetation or if the building is below grade and not visible from the adjacent street, according to city documents.
Drive-thrus will also be subject to a transportation impact analysis if the business is a restaurant, close to an intersection or in a shopping center that includes internal driving aisles. Provisions are already in place to trigger an analysis if 100 or more cars make trips to the drive-thru in the peak hour, according to city documents.
A transportation impact analysis is done to ensure the amount of traffic expected in the area is safe by considering factors like street capacity, effects on traffic circulation and pedestrian safety, according to city documents.
Rules were already in place for complying with noise ordinances and putting up screening if the drive-thru is within 100 feet of residential zonings to block menu screens, idling cars and speakers. However, these provisions were reworded and organized for clarity.
Additional rules apply if the drive-thru has a conditional use permit, which is required for certain zonings like mixed-use neighborhood, mixed-use downtown and mixed-use office districts, Smith said.
For that permit, drive-thrus must also be 50 feet away from residential districts and not have service windows facing them. Crosswalks will be required for ease of pedestrian access and the location and size of the structure must be compatible with the surrounding properties, according to city documents.
A transportation impact analysis will also be required if 50 or more cars are circulating through at the peak hour.
Two professional engineers gave public comment at the meeting to express concerns that the process should be more of a case-by-case decision.
Ben Ross, vice president at Engineering Surveys & Services, said that the required porte-cochere, or screening wall, is unnecessary in many cases because it is screening against multi-lane busy roads, not neighborhoods. Ross also said he was worried that screening will prevent police from easily seeing the area and it may pose a security threat.
Tom Trabue, chief engineer at Trabue Engineering, said that the requirements should be less absolute and that the screening and setbacks were overkill.
“I expect when I drive by a drive-thru restaurant to see a service window, I expect to see stalling cars,” Trabue said.
On another matter, the commission also approved an amendment to the code that allows the 10-foot easement requirement for buildings to be dropped for downtown structures.
According to city documents, the 10-foot easement requirement applies to property lines that abut public streets and allows space for utilities without permanent buildings over them. However, utilities are typically built in the public right-of-way downtown and buildings are to meet the street lines.
The final amendments made some technical changes to the code.
After some discussion, the commission decided that after months of work sessions, they were happy with the amendments and unanimously approved all changes, with one commissioner, Tootie Burns, absent. The amendments now go before the City Council for final approval.
Source : www.columbiamissourian.com