Changes are coming to the Tim Hortons drive-thru.
After about 30 minutes of discussion on a Form & Character Development Permit Amendment Application submitted by the fast food chain, Smithers Town Council voted to approve all staff recommendations for the application.
As part of the request the fast food chain got approval to update the sign plates on two of their drive-thru directional signs.
They were also approved to replace two drive-thru menus with new digital display menus.
The approval from the Town is subject to a number of conditions.
Illuminated signage must only be directed to persons using the drive-thru and cannot display advertisements.
Furthermore, digital displays must be equipped with an ambient light sensor and their displays must not increase light levels adjacent to the digital display by “more than 3.0 lux (a measurement of light per area) above the ambient (natural) light level.”
Illumination from the displays cannot exceed 2,500 nits (between sunrise and sunset) or 300 nits (between sunset and sunrise). Nits are units of luminous intensity.
The Town is also requesting the manufacturer’s specifications which confirm the displays can meet the above requirements.
Lastly, displays may not show full-motion video or or otherwise give the appearance of animation.
The vote passed 5-1, with deputy mayor Gladys Atrill the sole vote against the motion.
Atrill said she is uncomfortable supporting the kind of lighting proposed by the application.
“I don’t like the idea of moving into the digital brighter signs,” she said, adding she feels the approval of the application could set a precedent with regard to future digital signage.
“I don’t support that type of lighting signage. I’m thinking if we approve this one we’ll be approving more of them and I just don’t want to see this type of lighting.”
Council also passed two other motions.
The first was that the Town “continue to work with Tim Hortons to resolve the drive-thru traffic safety concerns by reconfiguring the site and considering a Development Variance.”
The motion passed 5-1, with councillor Lorne Benson opposed.
“The reason that I wasn’t comfortable with this is that the whole issue of the staging or the drive-thru of that property has been quite exhaustively explored over a number of years,” explained Benson.
“There’s no easy solutions with this and the cost implications to the property owner may be significant,” he added.
Council passed an additional motion unanimously to deny a portion of the application requesting that Tim Hortons be able to add one fascia sign on the northwest facing exterior building wall.
In discussion of their motion pertaining to the drive-thru, council addressed the long-standing issue of the frequent morning congestion spilling out of the chain’s drive-thru and onto Queen Street during peak business times.
The last time the Town completed on-site observations pertaining to the site was in 2002.
Director of development services Mark Allen noted one solution a nearby community selected was a double drive-thru at the franchise’s Vanderhoof location.
He added that the franchise owner’s contractual obligations to the parent company include premise updates every ten years but nothing else in terms of site obligations.
He also noted the upgrades are not slated to be done until spring, which makes now the perfect time to bring the Town’s comments about the drive-thru to the attention of the franchise owner and parent company.
“I think this is a good opportunity, we do have a bit of a delay as I mentioned … so I think now is the time to bring that to the forefront.”
In response to a question from councillor John Buikema, Allen estimated it would cost the town between $10,000 and $15,000 to have a consultant analyze the site.
During the discussion, councillor Frank Wray noted he was a bit surprised the franchisee isn’t interested in the ability to house more cars in the parking lot because of the potential business lost when they spill out onto the road.
“I know I’ve skipped that line because it’s too long,” said Wray.
“I think that’s part of the irony of this … they’ve improved that drive-thru speed so fast now we want to go through the drive-thru instead of going inside.”
In discussion of their motion to have the Town continue to work with Tim Hortons on the topic of their drive-thru, councillor Casda Thomas noted there are no specific things the Town will be forcing the franchise to do.
Rather, Thomas said the motion is more about keeping the appropriate lines of communication open and giving staff the ability to work with franchise owners should they wish to reconfigure their drive-thru in the future.