Petaluma Walgreens project goes before City Council Monday

The Petaluma Health Care District will make a renewed pitch to City Council members Monday to try to persuade them that its proposed Walgreens and 24-hour drive-thru pharmacy is a community necessity.

The Planning Commission rejected the proposal In July, saying the general plan amendment and zoning changes requested weren't called for.

Commissioners also questioned the need for more office space and the inclusion of a drive-thru window, which the city banned a few years ago to cut down on pollution-causing vehicle emissions.

The proposal includes a 2-acre retail development with a 7,500-square-foot office building and a 14,500-square-foot Walgreens with a 24-hour drive-thru pharmacy.

Browman Development of Walnut Creek is developing the project on district-owned land across from the hospital at McDowell Boulevard and Lynch Creek Way, just south of the Deer Creek Village shopping center under construction.

Walgreens has said it will abandon the project if it doesn't win approval for a drive-thru, which company officials have said is a crucial part of the company's business model.

The Health Care District was created in 1946 and has publicly elected board members. Some districts in California are supported by voter-approved property tax assessments, although Petaluma's is funded by its investments, real estate holdings and the LifeLine medical alert devices program.

It is governed by local laws that allow such districts to build and operate hospitals. The district owns Petaluma Valley Hospital and has leased the operations of it to St. Joseph Health since 1997.

Health Care District CEO Ramona Faith argues that the drive-thru, which supporters of the project prefer to call a "pick-up window," would be an important health benefit to Petalumans.

"The Walgreens pharmacy pick-up window serves a critical and unmet need in the city – easy access to medication and pharmacy health services for seniors, the ill, those with limited mobility and adults with sick children or parents," she said an appeal to the council.

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