A complete ban on new drive-thru services in Sebastopol was recommended by the Planning Commission after two hours of debate Tuesday night.

The commission also voted to apply the ban to current projects that have not reached the stage of having a building permit and beginning construction, which would affect the controversial CVS Pharmacy-Chase Bank branch project.

It is seen as a way of making Sebastopol more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, preserving the downtown and reducing greenhouse gases.

"The explosion of drive-thrus has destroyed many small towns," Commissioner Yvette Williams van Aggelen said. "You don't interact with people, you don't interact with your neighbors."

The city already bans new drive-thru restaurants, but this will broaden the ban and put it into an ordinance that will come back to the commission.

The commission had taken up the subject at the request of the City Council, which had enacted an emergency moratorium to ban drive-thrus for a year to allow the issue to be studied.

Sebastopol resident Ted Luthin said drive-thrus particularly don't belong downtown, where there should be higher densities.

"The land in the core of the city is precious, too precious to give up to drive-thrus," Luthin said. "Put pedestrian experience at a higher value than vehicle experience."

The ban passed on a 5-2 vote, with commissioners Colin Doyle and Michael Jacob objecting.

Doyle said the issue is driveways, which should be eliminated as much as possible downtown, and not drive-thrus. He favored regulating drive-thrus by requiring use permits.

The commission also voted to apply the ban to any project that does not have a building permit.

That would affect the CVS Pharmacy-Chase Bank project at the site of the vacant Pellini Chevrolet dealership, which has planning approval but not a building permit.

Bill McDermott, vice president for Armstrong Development of Sacramento, the project's developer, did not speak during the meeting and had no comment afterward.

However, CVS had made it clear during the planning process that a drive-thru at the pharmacy and bank branch were integral parts of the design and one of the reasons CVS wants to move out of its Redwood Marketplace building.

Longs Drugs and Armstrong Development have filed suit against the city over the drive-thru moratorium.

Jacob said that provision sends a wrong message to businesses, which can get planning approval and then have the city change its mind.

"When a business has reached the point of achieving planning approval and then find out that what they have put in in time and money is being ripped away when the Planning Commission and City Council changes its mind, that can be frustrating," Jacob said.

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