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Sebastopol considers chain store ban, solar energy requirements for projects

  • Annie Carouba, owner of Bliss Organic Day Spa, removes Christmas decorations from her business overlooking downtown Sebastopol, on Wednesday, January 2, 2013. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

The Sebastopol City Council, with the controversial CVS Pharmacy project still casting a shadow over downtown, is adding a chain store ban and solar energy requirements as possible ways to preserve the community's identity and shape new development.

"As the city grows and develops and learns, there is a lack of clarity in what the city wants future growth to look like, and it is important the council become pro-active," said Vice Mayor Robert Jacob. "It is very clear our town wants to maintain its unique, small-town identity."

At a time when many cities, notably Santa Rosa, are relaxing zoning and building ordinances in an effort to attract business and development, Sebastopol is searching for ways to tighten the rules.

A chain-store ordinance and a requirement for solar installations on all new business and residential construction or major remodeling would join the recently adopted moratorium on new drive-thru services.

City officials say that none of the measures are meant to derail the disputed CVS project, planned for Petaluma and Sebastopol avenues, one of the city's busiest and most prominent intersection.

Instead, they said they consider CVS a lesson learned.

"In the CVS process, we identified many holes in the city's laws, regulations and ordinances," said Jacob.

Jacob and City Councilman John Eder were elected in November in the backlash against CVS.

All three of the proposals have some following in a city in which seemingly all development is subjected to debate and delay. It's a town that takes pride in being ahead of the political curve, having fought PG&E Smartmeters, rejected cell phone towers and free downtown wifi and, decades ago, declared itself a nuclear-free zone.

"Sebastopol is a cute, funky vibe; that is what we want to promote, to have that quaint, sweet little town," said Annie Carouba, owner of Bliss Organic Day Spa, which overlooks Main Street. "To put another CVS in, forget about it. You would lose so much."

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