A Halifax regional councillor’s goal of battling climate change has resulted in municipal staff examining the feasibility of eliminating drive-thrus in the municipality — an issue that he says is part of an effort to pick the “low hanging fruit” among the city’s CO2 emissions.
“We were a car culture once,” said Richard Zurawski, councillor for Timberlea-Beechville-Clayton Park-Wedgewood, on Thursday.
“If we are to implement the goal of reducing carbon emissions for 2040, … then we have to begin talking about the obvious low hanging fruit.”
Zurawski brought the motion before the municipality’s Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee on Thursday and said he wasn’t attempting to punish fast food restaurants but wanted the municipality to take the issue of carbon emissions seriously.
Throughout the debate, it was made clear to council that current land-use bylaws prohibit the establishment of new drive-thrus on the Halifax peninsula, while the city’s upcoming draft of its Centre Plan also restricts the establishment of new drive-thrus.
Kelly Denty, Halifax’s director of planning and development, told the committee that even if they wanted to, the municipality did not have the ability to eliminate pre-existing drive-thrus.
“We cannot eliminate what already exists,” Denty said.
Shawn Cleary, councillor for Halifax West Armdale, admitted that businesses wouldn’t be happy if Zurawski’s motion became reality, but said that it would help to make communities more walkable.
Lisa Blackburn rejected the idea of an outright ban on drive-thrus, saying that vulnerable people, or those with disabilities, sometimes rely on drive-thrus to make life easier.
“An outright ban?” Blackburn said.
“I think the time has passed, the horse has left the barn.”
After a 40-minute debate, councillors Cleary and Tony Mancini joined Zurawski in voting in favour of the motion, while councillors Bill Karsten and Blackburn voted against it.
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At least one other Halifax councillor seemed open to discussing the subject.
Matt Whitman, councillor for Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets, says he uses drive-thrus now that he’s less mobile and temporarily in a wheelchair as a result of injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash.
“Many new cars turn off instead of idling now. I suggested gravity fed downhill drive thrus a decade ago. Segways are GREEN,” Whitman tweeted on Thursday.
Staff will now begin work on the report, which once complete, will head back to the Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee.
Any recommendations from the report approved by the committee would then have to go before regional council for approval.