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Board orders study of drive-throughs

Tired of getting stuck behind a drive-through line of cars so long it snakes out into the street, blocking traffic? How about all the noise drive-through restaurants create, to say nothing of fumes?

If so, Amherst officials feel your pain. In a recently approved motion, the Town Board ordered a study of how to better regulate the town's increasing number of drive-through establishments, as well as possibly stopping those that might pop up in the future.

"If we could just get out of these long [drive-through] lines in restaurants, banks, whatever," said Council Member Dan Ward, author of the motion. It would help the environment, improve health and save money, he said.

Ward said town planners had been discussing ways of allowing more types of drive-throughs. "And I thought, why do we need them at all?" he said

Ward said his motion was also inspired by a flap over noise and other problems created by a McDonald's drive-through on Main Street in Williamsville. Residents whose homes are near the 24-hour drive-through are complaining, and village trustees are now looking for ways to negate the noise.

Ward's motion was approved, 6-0, and sent to Planning Director Rick Gillert. It calls on the Planning Department to prepare whatever "statutory, codes and regulatory amendments" are needed to "eliminate drive-through commercial use in future developments and in retrofitting existing commercial uses."

Gillert said he will meet with the Town Board at today's work session to clarify its intent with the proposed law. He said, for instance, the scope of the motion is unclear. "Are they also talking about ATMs?" he said. "It is very general and all-encompassing."

The business community is highly critical of the motion.

Colleen C. DiPirro, president of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, calls the resolution a "knee-jerk reaction" to the issue. She said some Tim Hortons drive-throughs cause complaints because of lines of cars blocking regular traffic. Other than that and the McDonald's-Williamsville clash, drive-throughs don't usually generate complaints, she said.

"I think level heads will prevail," DiPirro said. "They will realize this is something they need to be aware of but not legislate."

Still, the Town Board expressed concerns.

But Supervisor Satish Mohan said he supported studying the issue but would support action to restrict drive-throughs only if they create a traffic hazard or are too close to homes.

Includes reporting by Sandra Tan.


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