Council nixes loosening drive-thru rules

The Ashland City Council has short-circuited an effort to loosen drive-thru window rules that were adopted in the 1980s to reduce gas consumption and air pollution.

On Tuesday night, City Councilor Mike Morrison made a motion to approve the loosening of rules, but no other councilor seconded the motion, leading to the death of the proposal.

Councilors offered no immediate answers for why they didn't support the loosening of rules after the motion died.

The Ashland Food Co-Op had pushed for the change so that it could someday expand its parking lot onto the adjacent Umpqua Bank property.

City rules make it virtually impossible for four downtown banks, including Umpqua Bank, to move and bring along their drive-thru windows.

Loosening the rules could have allowed those banks to relocate and have a drive-thru window in a new location.The Planning Commission had proposed various restrictions to reduce drive-thru impacts downtown if banks relocated, including that the windows never be converted to serve fast food and that they not face major streets.

Ashland Transportation Commissioner Colin Swales testified during the City Council meeting that downtown drive-thru windows should be encouraged to gradually fade away over time to make the downtown more pedestrian friendly. With the advent of online banking, Swales said there is little reason for people to drive downtown and do their banking at a drive-thru window.

Citywide, Ashland allows only 12 drive-thru windows. Most of those are concentrated in a business area around Ext 14.

— Vickie Aldous

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