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Final decision due Tuesday for Sebastopol CVS project

After two years, 25 public meetings, hours of sometimes acrimonious debate and under a cloud of potential lawsuits, the Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday is expected to make a final decision on the controversial CVS Pharmacy project.

"It is a conspicuous location, different members of the community have differing expectations of how that space should be utilized, and people care a lot," said Mayor Guy Wilson.

Armstrong Development of Sacramento is proposing to build a 14,576-square-foot CVS Pharmacy and 4,327-square-foot Chase bank branch at the site of the vacant Pellini Chevrolet dealership on one of the city's most prominent intersections.

CVS and Chase would move to the 2.4-acre site from locations elsewhere in the city.

The City Council has given all necessary approvals for the $10 million project, including approving a negative declaration of environmental impacts — except for an approved design.

The debate has raged over whether the impact report should have included a full traffic study, whether the design fits with Sebastopol's Main Street character and whether the city should take into account alleged corporate malfeasance by CVS and Chase.

The council finds itself in the unusual position of being involved in the design process, the final approval necessary before construction can move ahead.

"The issue is completely about the design, it is downtown and it needs to fit in," said Vice Mayor Michael Kyes. "The city has a business plan, and the plan is to design a downtown that is attractive for its residents and tourists. The pharmacy and bank are perfectly legitimate businesses to put downtown. What we need to decide is have they developed a project that fits in with the rest of the downtown."

In this, the fourth design, Sebastopol architect Kevin Kellogg varied roof heights, added a brick facade instead of quasi-industrial metal siding, removed some parking, created a larger plaza, added clear glass windows and gave the driveway a one-way entrance.

The changes were made at the request of the City Council in February, but the redesign was still rejected by the Design Review Board on May 30. Board members said the project still looked like a shopping center-style complex with two buildings and a large parking lot.


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