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Capitola City Council puts the brakes on McDonald's drive-thru

Posted: Friday, Nov 9th, 2012

CAPITOLA — The Capitola City Council on Thursday night refused to allow the McDonald's on 41st Avenue to build a drive-thru window as part of a proposed building remodel.

Adding a drive-thru window would necessitate a change to the city’s municipal code, because the restaurant resides in a community commercial zoning district that includes 41st Avenue and Bay Avenue from Highway 1 to Center Street, which prohibits drive-thru restaurants.

There are currently only two restaurants with a drive-thru in Capitola — Burger King on 41st Avenue and Dairy Queen on Bay Avenue.

A presentation from the architectural firm hired by the restaurant owners, Steve and Jan Peat, failed to impress the council members, who recommended they redo their proposal and then try their luck with the planning commission.

The council was not called on to vote on the proposal but to offer guidance.

Major concerns voiced by the council were the impact the proposed two-lane drive-thru would have on nearby residences that back onto the commercial lot, traffic congestion, the relatively small lot they have to work with — only 80 feet wide — and the lack of an adequate sidewalk for pedestrians.

Owner Steve Peat’s comment that an estimated 70 percent of future customers would use the drive-thru instead of sitting in the dining room — based on usage at his Scott’s Valley McDonald's and his former McDonald's in Gilroy — was the death knell for the proposal.

Councilman Dennis Norton said the proposal “doesn’t work” and is “not necessary to the community.”

The council said they would like the drive-thru prohibition to be worked out during the city’s General Plan discussions.

The City Council also heard arguments in support of additional smoking regulations and a new tobacco retail license (TRL), which would put the city in step with neighboring cities — Watsonville and Santa Cruz and the county.

Money collected from the fee would be used toward fund enforcement and education efforts directly related to tobacco use, which benefit the fee-payers.

A 2010 sting conducted by the Santa Cruz County Tobacco Education Coalition found that 18 percent of stores surveyed in Capitola would sell tobacco products to a minor.

There are currently 14 retailers that sell tobacco products in Capitola.

After a presentation by Capitola Police Chief Rudy Escalante, Councilman Sam Storey said he worried that the license fee would create another burden for businesses and would like to see better enforcement of current anti-smoking laws.

Capitola was one of the first cities in California to ban smoking on beaches and parks but the council agreed that more education needs to be done with businesses along the esplanade to curb smoking by employees on the sidewalk, which is not permitted.

The council asked for more information on how the tobacco retail license would be most cost-effectively managed as they did like the idea that the creation of the TRL would create a mechanism for suspending or revoking the license from retailers who were found to sell tobacco products to minors.

The proposed new regulations would prohibit smoking in additional outdoor areas such as employee break areas, porches and patios where second hand smoke can drift and in multi-unit dwellings. It would also prohibit tobacco retailers from selling within 1,000 feet of a public school.

As for the additional regulations, the council did like the prohibition against any future retailer from selling tobacco within 1,000 feet of a school but felt that regulations that encroached on private property – whether that be businesses or residences – was a step too far and would be difficult to enforce.

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