By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday imposed an immediate moratorium on new drive-thrus, an action that could further delay the controversial CVS Pharmacy-Chase Bank branch project at the city center.
“My feeling is drive-thrus are an outmoded model,” said Councilman Patrick Slayter, who proposed a moratorium a month ago. “And with our limited urban space, I am not sure devoting traffic lanes to drive-thrus is the best use of our limited space.”
The only ongoing project that will be affected is the proposed pharmacy and bank at the vacant Pellini Chevrolet dealership.
Interim City Manager Larry McLaughlin said, however, that CVS was not the target of the moratorium, which he said applies to any site in Sebastopol that could be developed.
“This isn’t a ban; it is to maintain the status quo while the Planning Commission and City Council study the subject,” McLaughlin said. “Studying a subject does not necessarily lead to a ban.”
Opponents of the CVS project see it as an opening in their attempt to get the developer, Armstrong Development of Sacramento, to abandon the controversial project.
“This is something that will affect our town forever,” said Helen Shane of Small Town Sebastopol, which has filed a lawsuit challenging the project’s impact report. “We don’t want it here. We hope it further discourages them.”
The urgency ordinance, which will remain in affect for 45 days, was passed on a 5-0 vote. McLaughlin said it is likely, though, the council will act to extend the moratorium for a year.
It affects any project that hasn’t progressed to the stage of having a building permit in hand and is prepared to begin construction, McLaughlin said.
Armstrong Development vice president Bill McDermott could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The $10 million project, subject of dozens of public meetings, has been the focus of emotional community debate. Its design was finally approved Aug. 22 in a 3-2 council vote, which overturned a denial by the city’s Design Review Board.
The project was also an issue in the November City Council election, in which two new council members who opposed the CVS project were elected.
The approved design includes drive-thru lanes for the pharmacy and the bank branch, which are proposed as separate buildings.
However, the developer has not returned to the council with design changes that were requested, or applied for a demolition permit, which are steps necessary before getting a building permit, McLaughlin said.
“They have not done anything since the project was approved,” McLaughlin said. “Cities do have a right to change their laws that affect existing projects that have not received vested rights and you receive vested rights by taking out a building permit and beginning work.”
You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.