Lake-areas drive-throughs becoming hot topic
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Last year, In-N-Out Burger eyed the land across from the Crescent V Shopping Center, where Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar is going up today.
Interest by the popular burger chain, which relies heavily on drive-through service, vanished once it discovered the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency had officially outlawed drive-throughs in 1987, said Gary Midkiff, a building consultant who spoke with In-N-Out.
The drive-through issue is becoming a hot topic, as it does every couple of years. South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Tom Davis wants to see the issue on the front burner, in particular, when it comes to drive-through service at pharmacies.
Davis wants TRPA to revisit the issue on behalf of Doug Mundy, longtime owner of Tahoe Valley Pharmacy. Mundy wants a drive-through at his pharmacy so the disabled, the sick and seniors don’t have to walk through snow to pick up prescriptions.
“His reason makes good sense,” Davis said. “It’s a convenience thing, particularly for seniors that don’t want to get out of their cars.”
If science today indicates vehicle emissions are less harmful to the environment than 20 years ago, Davis said he would support drive-through windows for restaurants, too.
“Let’s let good science dictate good environmental policy,” Davis said. “We are in compliance with air quality. All I’m asking is to let science dictate it. I think that’s fair and reasonable.”
TRPA, which crafts building rules for the Lake Tahoe Basin, has discouraged the construction of drive-throughs since the early 1980s. A rise in the levels of carbon monoxide emissions at Stateline, as well as the agency’s mission to reduce reliance on cars and trucks at the basin whenever possible, led to a ban on drive-throughs being adopted as law.
Hal Cole, South Lake Tahoe city councilman and member of TRPA’s governing board, introduced Davis’ drive-through question at the agency’s board meeting Wednesday.
“It was many years ago when the TRPA banned them based on air quality issues,” Cole said. “I want to make sure science still justifies it.
“I’m looking at pharmacies here, elderly people in particular. I just can’t see any reason why we can’t have a drive-through pharmacy.”
The board listened to Cole’s proposal and agreed it would like to hear back from TRPA’s staff about the science supporting the ban.
“We’ll bring back a report in February or March,” said Pam Drum, TRPA spokeswoman. “The board, if it so desires, will give us direction whether to re-examine any issues, particularly in regard to drive-up pharmacies.”
There are drive-throughs in the basin, but all of them existed before 1987. They are at banks, the McDonald’s at the “Y” and the South Lake Tahoe Burger King.
Transferring an existing drive-through to a new business is an issue the TRPA recently dealt with, said Gordon Barrett, division chief of long-range planning at the agency. McDonald’s wanted to build at the Round Hill Shopping Center, but scrapped plans after TRPA disallowed the transfer of an older drive-through from a bank across the street to a new business.
Barrett said despite the fact that the basin has attained its goal to lower the level of carbon monoxide in the air, it still hasn’t attained its goal for nitrogen oxides.
Carbon monoxide standards are set lower for the Lake Tahoe Basin. Air at the basin can only contain 6 parts of carbon dioxide per million, versus the rest of the state, which is allowed 9 parts per million.