The Danbury Zoning Commission is considering an amendment clarifying drive-in and drive-thru facilities in a zone along Mill Plain Road. The amendment would prohibit drive-thrus for facilities that dispense food, beverages, and similar products. There is an exception for licensed pharmacies dispensing prescriptions. The amendment does not apply to other uses, like a bank or dry cleaner, providing a service rather than a product.
Planning Director Sharon Calitro says food and beverage drive-thrus generate a significant number of traffic trips. She says increased traffic generation can result in safety and congestion issues. Public policy has been to prohibit uses with these characteristics in this zone.
This particular zone was created in 1984 to restrict development in the Mill Plain area in order to curb traffic congestion and preserve the character of an arterial roadway. The zone starts just past the Shell station on Lake Avenue, so the McDonald's is not in the zone. The other end of the zone is at the corner of Mill Ridge Road. Dutchess is a pre-existing, non-conforming use.
In 2013, the Zoning Commission denied a petition allowing a Starbucks with a drive thru. Calitro says conditions haven't improved since then to the point where changes would be deemed acceptable. As for economic impact, she says this clarification will not negatively impact it. She notes that there are many other opportunities for fast food restaurants with drive thru windows.
Attorney Neil Marcus was hired by a convenience store which has a petition before the Planning Commission. The applicant is seeking to have a drive thru window. Since the application was submitted before the Zoning clarification was proposed, it would be grandfathered in.
Much of the public hearing was about debating what is considered fast food. An argument was made that it's not what an establishment sells, it's how the items are sold.