With a unanimous committee vote Thursday, the Minneapolis City Council moved one step closer to banning new drive-through facilities at fast-food restaurants, banks and other businesses.
If approved by the full council Aug. 8, Minneapolis would likely become the first U.S. city of its size to ban drive-throughs, according to city planners.
City Council President Lisa Bender proposed the ban last year to cut down on vehicle noise, idling and traffic and to make sidewalks safer for pedestrians. While new drive-throughs are already prohibited in 17 of the city’s 23 zoning districts, this policy would extend the ban to include the remaining areas, which include industrial and some commercial districts.
Council Member Lisa Goodman, who sits on the committee and co-sponsored a similar proposal three years ago, said during the meeting that “one of the more controversial things that comes before us is neighbors opposing drive-throughs.”
“I rarely have seen anyone other than the applicants of drive-throughs come to speak in favor of them,” she said. “It is nonsensical for people who walk or bike to be thinking about having to go across large driveways.”
She said she was proud of the new policy, adding, “It’s something that should happen in a city like this.”
Bender, who also sits on the committee, said the city was already working to make commercial corridors less car-oriented.
“This is not a huge, dramatic departure from our past,” Bender said of the ban. “It’s actually just an incremental move toward what the city has been doing for many years.”
The Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which was approved by the council last year, directed the city to outlaw new drive-throughs and gas stations.
The proposal would prohibit any new drive-through facility involving a business transaction at restaurants, banks, ATMs and more. The city would still allow businesses to designate a parking space for dropping off or picking up goods.
Existing drive-throughs could remain, and businesses could alter or expand them, city planning manager Jason Wittenberg said.
The city’s planning commission also signed off on the ban earlier this year.
But the council heard objections from the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities, which reports to the council.
Margot Imdieke Cross, a member of the advisory committee who uses a wheelchair and drives a van, said drive-through ATMs are sometimes the only way for people with mobility limitations to withdraw money during the winter.
“Drive-throughs are very important for many people with mobility issues and seniors,” she said in an interview. “The city of Minneapolis has to recognize that there are different groups in this community. We have different concerns and we all need to be represented.”
The advisory committee sent a letter to the council that stated the policy could lead to “the decrease of access to goods and services” for people with disabilities. It asked that the policy include provisions requiring businesses to include alternative forms of access, such as curbside services, and exempt ATMs from the bans.
During Thursday’s committee meeting, Goodman said the policy wouldn’t affect accessibility for people with disabilities because existing drive-throughs can remain. Wittenberg said businesses will still need to comply with the state accessibility code and the Americans with Disabilities Act.