Northeast Town debates idling bylaw aimed at Tims drive-thru

Shutterstock By Lester Balajadia

NORTHEAST TOWN – A Little Current man is hoping the Northeast Town council will adopt an idling bylaw that could make running a fast food drive-through, such as at a Tim Hortons, difficult, citing concerns of the potential for vehicle emissions in a residential neighbourhood.

A letter from Zak Nicholls pointed out three concerns regarding the impending Tim Hortons: the need for a sidewalk from Manitowaning Road to the Little Current Public School (which would join the sidewalk that runs from Worthington Street); a buffer zone that would run along the Tim Hortons property on its Draper Street edge; and an anti-idling bylaw.

“Please consider an idling bylaw that will take into consideration the residents living next to the restaurant, especially those living beside the parking lane of Manitowaning Road,” Mr. Nicholls writes. “Not only are these residents usually downwind of the lane, they are also slightly downhill as well. It would be unpleasant for these individuals to be experiencing constant infiltrations of diesel fumes into their homes.”

Mr. Nicholls, whose family will be a neighbour to the Tim Hortons, is the father of a child with cystic fibrosis, a disease of the lungs.

Mayor Al MacNevin told council that two of these concerns have already been addressed in some degree, pointing to the draft 2020 budget that has the Draper Street sidewalk project slated for construction. The Draper Street buffer is part of the site plan and will include four foot high bushes.

As for the idling bylaw, “not every municipality entertains idling bylaws,” CAO Dave Williamson shared. “Enforcement makes this difficult and there are usually conditions which state when and where you can and can’t idle. Our preliminary research shows it would be exceedingly difficult to implement.”

Councillor Michael Erskine said he understands that there are 27 municipalities in the province that currently have idling bylaws. “Should we look at them and get some information for discussion on how it’s working?” he asked.

“That means no drive-through, right?” Councillor Dawn Orr queried.

“Not to my knowledge,” the mayor answered. “It means you’d have to turn your car off every time you’d stop. They (bylaws) typically vary from one to three minutes. Unless you have a significant number of people working on (enforcement of) bylaws…”

Mayor MacNevin also pointed out that many idling bylaws are connected to the temperature, meaning they do not count if the temperatures are above or below a certain temperature.

“I’m curious, would we extend this to school buses?” Councillor Jim Ferguson asked. “Because we’ve got kids freezing or sweating on the bus, one of the two.”

“While I appreciate Mr. Nicholl’s concerns, I agree with Dave (Williamson) on an enforcement capacity,” Councillor Al Boyd added. “This will turn into a real nightmare,” he continued, pointing to any business parking lot on Manitoulin on a cold winter’s day or hot summer’s afternoon when vehicles are left running.

“If you make a law you can’t enforce there’s no sense in making that law,” he said.

Councillor Erskine asked if the northbound parking lane along Manitowaning Road could be designated as a no idle zone, noting that it would likely most often be used by transport truck drivers.

Mr. Williamson said they could make that spot idle-free, but reminded council that enforcement remains the issue.

Councillor Bill Koehler said he’d have “no part of any anti-idling bylaw whatsoever.”

Councillor Laurie Cook reminded council that the Manitoulin Centennial Manor has ‘no idling’ signs located near the entrance of the building and asked how they tackle enforcement. She also suggested ‘no idling’ signs be located at both sets of traffic lights at the swing bridge.

“I know you’re scoffing, but how does the Manor do it?” she again asked.

“Just picking a 50 foot stretch of town is not going to make a difference,” the mayor said. “What about the traffic at the Trough (the food truck located at the Manitoulin Brewing Co.), the arena, downtown? It seems like a lot of knee-jerk reactions because of a new business coming to town.”

Staff will investigate other municipal idling bylaws and report back to council on their findings for further discussion.