The days of drive-thru lines spilling onto Sugar House streets may not be over, but Salt Lake City aims to stop the problem from getting any worse.
Planning officials presented a proposal this week to the City Council to bar new drive-thrus in dense commercial areas of Sugar House, an effort to keep the surging east-side neighborhood more walkable.
“There are parts of our community where drive-thrus make sense, and Sugar House is not one of them anymore,” council Chair Darin Mano said at the meeting. “It really does back up onto the street, and Sugar House is, in a lot of ways, becoming a model walkable, transit-connected community.”
If approved, the ban would apply to new banks, restaurants and retail shops in Sugar House Business District zoning areas, a cluster of parcels west of Sugar House Park and north of Interstate 80.
It would not prohibit existing drive-thrus from operating, and would not bar new ones in other parts of the city. Drive-thrus are already off-limits in downtown’s central business district.
Twelve businesses — including restaurants, banks, pharmacies and coffee shops — currently operate drive-thrus in the Sugar House Business District.
As of last year, Chick-fil-A had generated more complaints to city transportation officials than any other drive-thru. The restaurant has since reconfigured its drive-thru line.
Drive-thrus are disruptive, she said, as Sugar House undergoes major road construction and sees continued growth and development.
“We’re going to just have that many more people coming in, and it’s just really hard when you can’t get anywhere,” she said. “What’s suffering are the businesses, because people try to get in to go to a restaurant, and they can’t figure out where to park because it’s just so congested.”
City officials said the planning commission asked for the change because drive-thru windows are inconsistent with the purpose statement of the Sugar House Business District, which declares that that district should “promote a walkable community with a transit-oriented, mixed-use town center that can support a 24-hour population.”
City Council member Sarah Young, the area’s newly appointed representative, said in a statement that residents of her district have been vocal about the pressures drive-thrus have put on traffic, but she did not signal whether she supports the proposal to ban new ones,
“It’s important to balance the needs of residents with our business partners, which is why public comment is an essential part of the process before any decisions are final,” she said. “I look forward to hearing that feedback as we consider taking action.”
The council is scheduled to hear public comment on the idea at an Aug. 8 meeting. The new rules may be adopted as soon as Aug. 15.