Residents protest 24-hour McDonald’s plan
MONTREAL — There’s a McDonald’s restaurant with a 24-hour drive-thru window coming to the parking lot of the Côte-St-Luc shopping centre, and some residents are not pleased.
“Putting a 24-hour drive-thru fast-food restaurant immediately next to single-family housing is inappropriate and inconsiderate,” said Nicholas Bertos, whose property is one of five homes that back onto the parking lot, along with an apartment building. “For local residents it means increased noise, especially at night, constant smells from the kitchen and garbage, an increased potential for loitering, more litter being thrown over the fence.”
Opponents say they would oppose any 24-hour drive-thru establishment, but it’s apparent what McDonald’s represents to some makes the addition even less palatable.
In a letter to local newspaper The Free Press, David Bouquet and his spouse wrote they’re worried a restaurant “that promotes unhealthy eating” will target children, teenagers and people with low incomes, cause traffic congestion and safety issues, especially for the many older people who use the mall, and attract local gangs. Bouquet said he has collected more than 100 names from local residents opposing the change, and started an online petition (www.ipetitions.com/petition/cotesaintlucmcdonalds/) requesting the restaurant be placed inside the mall. As of Friday afternoon it had five signatures.
A drive-thru McDonald’s restaurant “is just a symbol of sloth and ill health and diabetes and bad eating habits,” Bouquet said. “We should be greening this area, not McDonaldizing it. I’m amazed that Côte-St-Luc allowed it.”
Côte-St-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather said citizens were given ample warning a year and a half ago that the city wanted to modify the zoning of the commercial area that already allowed for a restaurant to include drive-thru establishments. Notices were placed in newspapers and on the city website, a sign was placed at the location, articles were written in local papers. There was a public consultation meeting. Two people showed up, Housefather said. City engineers ensured safe traffic plans, and the patio out front allowed more greening of the parking lot. He said he has only heard complaints from two citizens since the news McDonald’s was coming broke.
“It’s not a green space we’re building on,” Housefather said. “This is a commercial shopping centre in an area that has been zoned commercial for more than 50 years, on a street (Côte St. Luc Blvd.) that is designated a heavy truck lane.”
There is a McDonald’s in the Cavendish Mall and the city has had a positive relationship with the chain for decades, Housefather said. There is a Côte-St-Luc room at the Ronald McDonald House, which provides facilities for sick children and their families. Côte-St-Luc promotes healthy eating through its urban agriculture program and is the only city in Quebec that has a food charter, Housefather said.
“In my view a city can only go so far. A city can only encourage people to eat healthy. It’s not going to ban fast food, and its not going to tell people they can’t make their own choices about what food they want to eat.”
McDonald’s does offer numerous healthy food choices, said Jason Patuano, communications manager for the Eastern Canada branch of the chain, but that’s not what everyone wants.
“Needs are evolving and we are trying to respond to that, and we are able to offer that,” he said. “But for all those customers who want to indulge in a good Big Mac once in a while, we are there because there is a demand.”
The company respects the regulatory requirements and bylaws of the communities they build in, Patuano said. The Côte-St-Luc location has been designed to minimize noise and light reflection from cars and impact on the neighbourhood, he said, and McDonald’s has the quickest drive-thru times in the industry, minimizing idling.
“Obviously, we are a target,” Patuano said. “But we are not the same McDonald’s of 15 or 20 years ago.”
Bouquet responds that the zoning changes were done so quietly most people had no idea it was coming, and he is resolving to keep up his fight, because “McDonald’s brings a negative impact.”
“A drive-thru is going to completely change the nature of our neighbourhood,” he said.
Note by Glenn: I have no idea why my name shows up under the McDonald’s rendering in today’s Gazette. I am not an artist nor do I have anything to do with McDonald’s.