Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Amendments to Tacoma’s Drive-through Regulations

Today, Dustin Lawrence, a senior planner at the City of Tacoma, presented to the Council’s Economic Development Committee regarding amendments to the City’s drive-through regulations.

Currently, Tacoma’s Zoning Code allows drive-throughs in all but residential districts, however there are some design requirements in Shoreline, Downtown, and X Districts.

In the proposal, drive-through regulations would be especially strict Downtown, with the potential of prohibition from the Downtown Commercial Core District. Downtown, drive-through windows and stacking lanes would be required to be entirely within buildings, and entrances and exists would have to be a minimum of 100 feet from designated (pedestrian/ light rail) streets. Stacking lanes refer to the portion of the drive-through in which vehicles are awaiting service.

Likewise, additional regulations would be imposed on drive-throughs in X districts, such as those zoned for mixed use, as well as broader restrictions that would apply to drive-throughs in all districts across the City.   

The presentation sparked a lively discussion on drive-throughs, the vision and reality of the City of Tacoma, and economic development. Councilmember Boe, an experienced architect and Vice-Chair of the committee, noted the challenges in building when governments layer on regulations, suggesting that too strict of regulations would discourage investment in the community.

Numerous businesses have drive-throughs, such as restaurants, banks, pharmacies, car washes, and the demand for drive-throughs are high in some areas.

In contrast, Councilmember Mello expressed that he wanted to see more policies that promote walk-ability, which in his view, drive-throughs do not accomplish.

Deputy Mayor and Committee Chair, Councilmember Campbell, also weighed in, noting the urban value of drive-throughs and how they reduce the need for surface parking, since vehicles (and customers) are constantly rotating through.

Additionally, drive-throughs not only offer convenience to patrons, but they also allow businesses to close off public access while continuing to serve customers late into the night.    

Boe expressed more concern about drive-throughs abutting residential areas rather than Downtown or mixed-use districts, because a drive-through near homes may decrease the land value. Moreover, establishments with drive-throughs offer potential property tax generation over a vacant lot, as well as sales tax.

The proposal will be released on February 20, 2013 for public comment, followed by a public hearing in March. For more information on the proposed amendment, visit the City’s website.  

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