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Sebastopol CVS project draws large crowd to council meeting

By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Dozens of people lined up Monday night to try to sway the Sebastopol City Council on a controversial CVS Pharmacy proposed for one of the city’s most prominent spots.

The crowd of about 250 people was about 2-to-1 in favor, based on a show of hands, with supporters calling the project well-designed and a plus for business, and those against wanting something smaller and more fitting Sebastopol’s small-town character.

Fifty-five people spoke to the council during the 4½-hour hearing. Before it began, Mayor Guy Wilson told the crowd that the council would make its decision at a follow-up meeting on Feb. 7.

Armstrong Development Properties of Sacramento wants to build a 14,576-square-foot CVS Pharmacy and a 4,327-square-foot Chase Bank branch at the site of the vacant Pellini Chevrolet dealership at an estimated cost of $10 million.

The 2.4-acre site is at Sebastopol and Petaluma avenues, a heavily traveled intersection.

Both CVS and Chase would move to the Pellini location from facilities elsewhere in Sebastopol.

The development proposal already has been the subject of more than a dozen Planning Commission, Design Review Board and City Council meetings.

The City Council on July 5 voted 4-1 to overturn the Planning Commission’s denial of the project, giving the CVS proposal the go-ahead without having to conduct a full environmental report.

But the Design Review Board, after hours of emotional testimony, later rejected the proposal in a 3-1 vote, ruling it was too modern and out of character with small-town Sebastopol.

Armstrong Development appealed that denial, contending it was outside the review board’s jurisdiction and the decision was made on emotional issues that were not relevant.

The denial was not based on design but on the desire to reject the project on either imposed or personal beliefs, said Armstrong Development spokesman Bill McDermott.

He said the project was designed with a plaza, walkways under a trellis, seating on walls and rain gardens to capture rainfall. As a result, the CVS and Chase buildings would be unlike any others in the U.S., he said.

McDermott said the new complex would generate $5 million in construction activity, $500,000 in city fees, $500,000 in retail taxes, $30,000 in public art, $400,000 in public improvements and $100,000 in property taxes.

The Committee for Small Town Sebastopol opposes the development and has sued, contending the project needs an environmental impact report to address traffic issues.

Sebastopol planning staff members said Armstrong Development has met the city’s requirements and recommended the council grant the appeal.

Design Review Board member Peter Schurch said the site plan sets up traffic patterns that, at the peak, will have a vehicle exiting the site every 14 seconds and having to take a circuitous route to go west or north.

“It’s an easy place to get to but a difficult place to leave,” Schurch said.

Design Review Board member Lynn Deedler said the architecture was good but just inappropriate and unfit for Sebastopol.

Martin Webb of Sebastopol, however, said the project should be approved.

“These people have done everything that you have asked of them,” Webb said. “It is time to show that we want business in Sebastopol.”

Critics called it a big-box store that is more appropriate for San Jose than Sebastopol and it was important to keep Sebastopol’s funky, artistic and attractive remnant of small-town America.

“It needs to be rethought and downsized,” said Dale Miller, who complained about the traffic. “I drive it three days a week, and it is already gridlock.”





5 Responses to “Sebastopol CVS project draws large crowd to council meeting”

  1. Shaffer's Shady Subterfuge (Corrected) says:

    In her role as agent for the applicant, Shaffer has further exposed her fervent long-standing advocacy for this project and destroyed any remaining facade of impartiality in her views. As a result of her demonstrated bias, she has proven herself to be unqualified as an objective participant in any future deliberations on this matter. Her refusal to recuse herself only continues and reinforces her unethical behavior. Her comments during Monday evening’s meeting did not express remorse for her actions, only regret for having been exposed.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  2. GAJ says:

    The entrance to Cotati from 116 has a Walgreens and it looks just fine. It certainly has not hurt the small town feel of Cotati one tiny bit.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  3. Stop Complaining says:

    So for those opposed, the site has been vacant for how many years? Creating an EYESORE to look at, along with defferred maintenance on the building, sidewalks and parking spots. Really we NEED the improvements which will go hand in hand with the developement accross the street, and the Barlow Project. Its nowhere near “big box” and this creates only positives. Those against really need to see the BIG PICTURE.

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  4. Shaffer's Shady Subterfuge says:

    As reported in today’s paper, there was a large turnout of “supporters” of the CVS project at Monday evening’s Sebastopol City Council meeting.

    The appearance of this group was personally engineered by Councilmember Kathleen Shaffer, who directed an “under the radar” (her words, not mine)email campaign thru intermediaries. She conspired to give the illusion of widespread support to her fellow council members and influence their perceptions during the public hearing of the applicant’s appeal. Not only is this ethically reprehensible, but it is of questionable legality, despite the determination of the city attorney. It should be remembered that he reports to the city council, and his primary role is to protect them.

    The article fails to mention that attached to Shaffer’s email was a professionally-produced four page color brochure that appears to have been provided to her by the applicant, Armstrong Development. The graphics in this promotional piece were drawn directly from the applicant’s PowerPoint presentation that they gave to the city council and the text reads like an advertisement for the project, extolling its virtues. Readers are directed to contact Armstrong Development should they have questions.

    In her role as agent for the applicant, Shaffer has further exposed her fervent long-standing advocacy for this project and destroyed any remaining facade of impartiality in her views. As a result of her demonstrated bias, she has proven herself to be an impartial participant in any future deliberations on this matter. Her refusal to recuse to herself only continues and reinforces her unethical behavior. Her comments during Monday evening’s meeting did not express remorse for her actions, only regret for having been exposed.

    Her actions have demeaned the office to which she was elected.

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  5. Working Man says:

    Build it.

    Put some folks to work.

    I love it.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

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