By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday will consider extending its 45-day moratorium on drive-thrus to a year, a move certain to add fuel to the volatile community debate over the CVS Pharmacy-Chase Bank project.
After a protracted series of acrimonious hearings, the downtown commercial project has received the major approvals for plans that include a pharmacy drive-thru. But the 45-day moratorium adopted Dec. 18 by a reconstituted city council has temporarily blocked that plan — and prompted a lawsuit by the developer, Armstrong Development Inc. of Sacramento
City Manager Larry McLaughlin on Friday defended the extension of the urgency ordinance as a common step taken by cities.
“No city can study a subject that is complicated within 45 days,” McLaughlin said. “If it is important enough that you need a moratorium, it will take longer than 45 days to study.”
City officials have insisted the moratorium is not targeted at the CVS-Chase project, proposed at the vacant Pellini Chevrolet dealership, but they acknowledge there are no other proposals pending in the city involving drive-thru service.
The public hearing on whether to extend the moratorium is not even expected to begin until 10 p.m. Tuesday because of a lengthy council agenda. Mayor Michael Kyes said the late start is unavoidable and should not limit public input.
“This is a debate over the moratorium, not over the ordinance,” Kyes said. “There will still be plenty of time to debate whether we need to have a drive-thru ban.”
Kyes said there are many reasons that Sebastopol needs to consider whether to have a drive-thru ban.
“They are sort of the opposite of the philosophy of the town, that is designed to promote pedestrians and bicycling before accommodating cars and traffic,” he said. “Drive-thrus are perceived as bad for the environment, idling cars getting zero miles per gallon, producing pollution and greenhouse gases.”
The developer’s lawsuit against the city alleges that the urgency ordinance creating the ban is “arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory.”
The City Council’s regular meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Community Center Youth Annex.