A land-use change that the Orange County Board of Commissioners is considering would allow businesses to have drive-through windows south of the Hillsborough town limits.
That change and others are part of an effort to promote economic development on five sites in the Hillsborough Economic Development District at Old N.C. 86 and Interstate 40. The county wants to simplify the review process for commercial enterprises and minimize the effects on nearby homes, county staff said.
The Hillsborough district is one of three in central Orange County slated for industrial, research and commercial growth.
The commissioners delayed a decision last week to give themselves more time to identify the types of business that should not be allowed in the district. At least 28 types, including tobacco, wood product and weapons-related manufacturing, were ruled out following a citizen’s petition at a September public hearing.
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Another change would allow hotel and food service businesses only as part of a larger project. Drive-through windows, while previously not allowed, could be added under the new rules.
Chris Cole, who lives near the Hillsborough district and brought the petition, called the revised rules “a huge step in the right direction.”
“I think this is definitely going to be a great opportunity to bring some new business to the county, which we could use, and a way to keep everybody happy,” Cole said.
Commissioner Barry Jacobs asked to delay the vote, which could come at the board’s Dec. 5 meeting. Jacobs said he is concerned in particular about allowing the storage of paint and some other highly flammable chemicals.
A delay longer than a few weeks could be a problem, Commissioners Chairman Earl McKee said, because of projects with interest in the district.
Drive-through windows have been controversial in the past.
In 2013, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen upheld its drive-thru windows ban when it voted not to change zoning rules for a a possible bank on South Greensboro Street.
The aldermen worried that allowing a bank drive-through on the property would open the door for drive-through windows on other similarly zoned sites.
At Tuesday's aldermen meeting, developer Runyon Woods said bank drive-thrus are different from fast-food drive-thrus because banks are an essential service.
Fifteen years earlier, the aldermen decided they did not want drive-thru windows, especially downtown, because they wanted people to get out of their cars and walk. Vehicles sitting in a drive-through line with their engines running also increases greenhouse gas emissions, they said.