Petaluma planners reject drive-up ATM
Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 8:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 8:58 p.m.
An issue that has confounded Santa Rosa planners was a breeze for the Petaluma Planning Commission Tuesday night.
With little controversy and only modest discussion, the commission voted 4-1 to deny JP Morgan Chase's request to add a drive-up ATM to its downtown branch.
Controversy about whether or how much drive-thrus add to greenhouse gases or degrade air quality has become a hot-button issue in Sonoma County's largest city recently.
Operators of a Chick-fil-A drive-thru restaurant on Mendocino Avenue across from Santa Rosa Junior College were denied permission for a drive-up line by planners. They are appealing to the City Council. A proposed city policy on the issue has languished for years.
In Petaluma, the issue hasn't sparked much debate. No one spoke in opposition Tuesday and just one business owner wrote to support the idea.
The city's planning staff rejected Chase's application in March on the basis that a drive-up ATM would constitute a new drive-thru, which aren't allowed under the city's general plan, updated in 2008.
The bank, at Western and Kentucky Streets, previously had a drive-thru teller window, but closed it in the late 1990s. The space has since been used for parking.
The city's general plan calls for reducing pollution generated from idling vehicles.
Chase argued that a warm vehicle idling for 45 seconds at a drive-up ATM produces fewer emissions than one that is turned off and restarted.
Commissioner Dennis Wolpert quoted a federal Department of Energy study he said showed that to be untrue.
Petaluma's no-drive-thru rule doesn't allow exceptions even if it would reduce emissions. It also doesn't include exceptions to make access easier for the disabled.
Chase representative Nathan Jose argued the convenience factor.
“I would rather go through a drive-thru than leave my one-year-old in the car, step outside and go to a walk-up ATM,” he said, adding the same convenience holds for the elderly.
Chase's single ATM is so busy the company wants to add a second, drive-up ATM, he said.
Commissioner Dennis Elias, the only vote in support of Chase, said 45 seconds of idling is worth it for the convenience drive-ups offer.
“This is a rather small issue,” he said. He said he spoke with several downtown merchants who also weren't opposed.
A study done in Santa Rosa for the Chick-fil-A application showed a ban wouldn't measurably reduce carbon dioxide levels in the city.
And the consultant who handled the restaurant's environmental analysis similarly concluded that emissions wouldn't have a significant impact on air quality or greenhouse gases. The appeal issue is expected to be heard by the Santa Rosa council on May 22.
Jose said Chase likely will appeal the ATM question to Petaluma's City Council.
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