WatchSonoma Watch

Sebastopol sued over drive-thru ban



The developer of the CVS Pharmacy-Chase Bank branch project is suing Sebastopol, a city where debates over development are often lengthy and virulent.

The Pellini Chevrolet building on Highway 12 in Sebastopol. (PD FILE)

The suit claims that a 45-day moratorium enacted by the City Council on new drive-thrus, an integral part of the CVS Pharmacy project planned for the vacant Pellini Chevrolet dealership, jeopardizes their proposal that already has the necessary approvals.

An ordinance banning drive-thrus would be “arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory,” according to the suit filed in Sonoma County Superior Court on Christmas Eve.

Sebastopol, like any city in California, is entitled to re-evaluate its policies while using emergency ordinances to maintain the status quo, Larry McLaughlin, interim city manager, said Monday in defense of the City Council action.

McLaughlin also denied that the ordinance was directed at the CVS Pharmacy project, but meant to address the issue citywide.

McLaughlin admitted, however, that the ordinance could mean that, if the City Council decides on enacting a ban on drive-thrus, that CVS would be affected.

“If you have not received a building permit or started building, the city can changes its laws,” McLaughlin said. “Nothing is frozen in place because you have a project approval. Cities are free to change their laws.”

Controversy over development is standard fare in Sebastopol.

The Northeast Specific Development Plan was decisive three years ago in a City Council election, opponents of the O’Reilly and Associates’ new facility almost drove the iconic business out of town in 1996 and the Laguna Vista subdivision is still up in the air a decade after it was first proposed.

Currently, Armstrong Development Inc. of Sacramento is planning to build a CVS Pharmacy and Chase Bank branch on 2.5 acres at Petaluma and Sebastopol avenues, one of the city’s most prominent and busiest intersections.

The $10 million project has received design approval and environmental clearance from the City Council.

Although the developer still needs to get final approval on some design issues, the approvals that it has are the major ones necessary.

The project was approved, after three years and two dozen often-emotional public hearings.

The project was also an issue in the November City Council election, in which Vice Mayor Robert Jacob and Councilman John Eder were elected at least partially on the strength of their opposition to the CVS project.

On Dec. 18, the newly composed City Council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance putting a 45-day moratorium on drive-thrus, which could be extended to a year, while the Planning Commission and City Council study their use.

“Traffic and public safety on the Highway 116 and Highway 12 corridor is of particular concern of Sebastopol residents,” Jacob said. “Drive-thrus being of an auto-centric, traffic-driven use, it seems appropriate we look at how to reduce that impact on Sebastopol as a whole.”

Bill McDermott, vice president of Armstrong Development, could not be reached Monday for comment.

A drive-thru had been cited by the developer as a reason that CVS wanted to move from its present site at the Redwood Marketplace on Gravenstein Highway, where the addition of a drive-thru is not practical, to the new site.

The ordinance and the uncertainties it raises jeopardizes the project, in which millions of dollars has been invested, according to the suit.

The suit was filed by Armstrong and by Longs Drug Stores, the West Coast chain bought by CVS in 2008, and asks the ordinance be voided, for a preliminary injunction and for attorney’s costs.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.

13 Responses to “Sebastopol sued over drive-thru ban”

  1. Actually Living In 2013 says:

    Once again the Press Democrat goes deep into the photo archives to retrieve that picture of the Pellini building. Beutiful sunny day, woman with a dog, the Pellini building looks like it did when it was open, bright paint, all the windows are there, no weeds, no fencing. Perhaps they could actually send a photographer to Sebastopol to get a curent photo of what this corner actually looks like? We all need to get the TRUE feeling of that unique small town atmosphere that they are trying to protect, so let’s see what they’re trying to project as the beautiful gateway to town as it appeared when the council decided to put in the moratorium on drive-thrus, ban chains, and force everyone to go solar.

  2. bear says:

    Oh please. Your’re opposing the decisions of the democratically elected City Council of Sebastopol?

    If you don’t like what they do, change the Council. Anything else would be a violation of the US and State Consitutions.

    Just stand up and run for office.

    Or stop whining.

  3. Bear:

    I think it’s time to borrow a page from the progressive playbook. To wit: Don’t like the law? Go judge-shopping.

  4. Its about time! says:

    This has been going on in our County for years. Windsor developed a tree ordinance to stop 32 homes from being built next to a Winery. They also change the setbacks from vineyards so the land would be useless.
    But, if the developer is “green” they get a free pass and can cut down all the trees they want because it is good for the environment.
    I hope they stick it to the progressives and teach them how to play in the sand box again.

  5. James Bennett says:

    “Bear”: The connection between our “planning” (property rights) ideology and UN Agenda 21 has been covered by a few of us on this board.

    Do they teach that at ICLEI conferences?
    The old; “do you want a pig farm next door”? That tells me you’ve had some training, Bear.

    No, we don’t have to worry about pig farms ’cause agriculture is under assault too. Know anyone in ag? Ask ‘em how things are ‘goin.

    Love the Barlow project, that’s what I was suggesting for the Sebastopol Rd. redevelopment site.

    I’d rather see traffic and prosperity, than rickshaws and boarded buildings.

  6. bear says:

    Don’t like this? Then change the city council, the planning commission and the law.

    Don’t like the law? Move to China.

    Enjoy the traffic nightmare in the name of “free market capitalism.”

    Where should I put my pig farm? Next door to you?

  7. Snarky says:

    Farmer West:

    Your reference to the City of Half Moon Bay government idiots (south of San Francisco) is well understood.

    As always, the government idiots play their little childish games and then when the game blows up in their faces post civil litigation, the government freaks never have to pay a dime out of THEIR OWN POCKET. Thats the problem.

    The citizens of HMB are the victims. The government freaks should have to pay.

    And, as you said, the government freaks who are so arrogantly manipulating “the law” in Sebastopol need to be held accountable as well.

    I hope the various victims, including the citizens, can find a way to litigate against that city in a very successful manner. And then…. I hope the people of Sebastopol find a way to make the guilty government freaks feel so uncomfortable that they leave the county… after first leaving their cushy do-nothing government jobs, first, of course.

  8. Beef King says:

    Drive thru or not, Sebastopol will no longer be able to avoid the nightmare that is traffic, and this development along with the Barlow will create absolute gridlock.
    Look for angry citizens in 2015.

  9. James Bennett says:

    I like it.

    The only part I don’t like is defending oppressive property rights/planning ideology with our money.

    Unfortuneatly the only thing they seem to understand is a law suit.

    However allowing this free market sabotage is proving more expensive.

    Don’t care for Chase, but that’s not the point.

    The free market is brutal, like the jungle. If consumers didn’t patronize Chase they would be extinct.

    But like the jungle, the free market works perfect.

  10. Snarky says:

    Weak little public employees trying to pretend importance… and pretending importance by playing games with the “law.”

    Thats all there is to this story.

    The end result is more and more widespread disdain for government and anyone who advocates obeying “the law.”

    After all, why “obey” when the freaks of government use “the law” to manipulate and bully innocent people and innocent business ?

    Why “obey” ??

  11. “Nothing is frozen in place because you have a project approval. Cities are free to change their laws.”

    I am not an attorney, but had an attorney successfully pursue a claim of fraud in which I was the plaintiff. I’ll paraphrase the legal definition, which is quite simple: An untrue statement, which causes the believer financial harm.”

    I’m no fan of CVS or Chase, but they have clearly been lied to by the presumptuous fools who govern that loony little town, and they have certainly suffered financial harm. To teach progressives everywhere a lesson, I hope CVS/Chase sue for millions ,win, bankrupt the town, then pull up stakes and leave that decaying little corner vacant for decades.

  12. farmer west says:

    Disasterpol needs to look at Half Moon Bay before they go any further.

    Half Moon Bay lost in court over a development they approved, then over the course years the city put up moratoriums and other tricks to prevent the development.

    The investors in the project were awarded 18 million dollars. nearly caused the city to file BK.

    Wake up before it is too late.

  13. GAJ says:

    If I were a developer who had spent three years and well north of six figures to get approval, and then have this dropped on my head, I’d sue as well.