Drive Through Customers

A line of drive-thru customers at Dunkin’ Donuts off Route 130 in South Sandwich

Allowing Sandwich businesses to again offer drive-thru service could be among the zoning changes voters will be asked to consider at the May Town Meeting.

Such businesses would be restricted to the town’s commercial zone in South Sandwich—in the area around Route 130 and Cotuit and Quaker Meetinghouse roads—but the bylaw could apply to a range of businesses, from drugstores to restaurants.

The revival of drive-up windows was discussed by the planning board at its meeting on Tuesday, January 19, and was among several zoning bylaw changes expected to be on the warrant of the annual Town Meeting.

Because COVID-19 caused last year’s annual Town Meeting to be put off until June—and because the selectmen wanted to keep the meeting short to reduce the odds of contagion at the in-person meeting at the high school—the zoning amendments were delayed.

The changes include loosening regulations governing accessory dwelling units. The updated zoning bylaw would make it easier to add an affordable apartment to an existing single-family property.

Another proposed change adds an affordable housing component to cottage colonies that convert to condominiums or year-round rentals.

The board members briefly reviewed the amendments they had already discussed and then moved to include the newly added proposed drive-thru bylaw change.

Planning Director Ralph A. Vitacco said the town had, at one time, allowed a few businesses to offer drive-thru service to their customers. A few banks, and Dunkin’ Donuts, opened such services at the time.

But in 2013, the town rescinded the bylaw allowing new drive-thrus, Mr. Vitacco said.

The planning board recently reintroduced the idea.

“It would be very helpful to businesses during the COVID environment,” Mr. Vitacco said.

Board chairman Jeffrey Picard agreed, saying it would be especially helpful for families with children and for elderly residents for whom leaving the car is difficult.

Board member David L. Darling said he was “shocked” that the town put such constraints on businesses.

But Robert E. King, a longtime planning board member, said the 2013 bylaw change was suggested to discourage fast food restaurants from setting up shop in the town’s historic village.

At the Town Meeting that year, a taxpayer suggested the prohibition be extended throughout the town, Mr. King said. The amended prohibition passed.

“I would continue to support no drive-thrus on the historic side of town,” Mr. King said. “I think it does prevent fast food chains from moving to Sandwich.”

Mr. Picard and other members of the board said they would like to host a public hearing to determine how the townspeople feel about the matter.

Mr. Vitacco said his department will draft a proposed bylaw that would allow drive-thrus. Those businesses would have to obtain a special permit from the zoning board of appeals and be restricted to the town’s business corridor.

The public hearing is expected to be scheduled in the next few weeks.

No public hearing is necessary for the other zoning changes because they were vetted at a public hearing last year.

Easing the regulations governing accessory dwelling units was suggested by the planning board in 2019 at the behest of the Cape Cod Commission.

The regional planning agency suggested that all Cape towns allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as a “by right” accessory use for single-family dwellings. That means that such apartments would be allowed without the owners having to apply for special permits.

The Cape Cod Commission—and Massachusetts officials—continue to look at zoning bylaws throughout the commonwealth that might have helped create a housing shortage crisis in many regions.

Allowing accessory dwelling units would create more housing for seniors and younger workers who are currently priced out of several municipalities, especially on the Cape, government agencies have said.

The existing Sandwich bylaw seeks to prohibit a landlord from subdividing a single-family house and renting out both units.

The planning board removed the term “guest house” from the regulations, since the definition of the ADU covers all guest houses. Also, the planners agreed to consolidate the rules governing in-law apartments into the ADU bylaw.

Currently, in-law or relative’s quarters are allowed, but they must be separate from the main home.

Other zoning bylaw changes include adding an affordable housing component to cottage colony conversions—to condominiums or year-round rentals.

Under the proposed bylaw, at least 10 percent of such converted units must be made affordable—priced for people who earn substantially less than the median income for Barnstable County.

The new regulations also call for the addition of at least 10 percent affordable units be incorporated into all future cluster developments—complexes of higher density than standard single-family subdivisions.

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