A CVS Pharmacy and a Chase Bank branch finally received the go-ahead from the Sebastopol City Council after one of the most contentious debates over the city's identity in decades.
A Sacramento developer's plan for one of Sebastopol's busiest intersections was passionately discussed down to the last minute, winning at about 12:15 a.m. Wednesday on a narrow 3-2 vote after four hours of discussion.
The decision came after two years of controversy and two dozen meetings that centered on whether the pharmacy and bank branch buildings were a business and shopping boon to Sebastopol's Main Street or just another variation of a suburban shopping center.
In the end, the City Council assumed the lead role in design approval.
"We have come to the point that we have a much better design than at the outset," Mayor Guy Wilson said. "We have come from what was a pretty mediocre first effort."
The council granted an appeal by Armstrong Development, which was contesting an earlier, second rejection by the city's Design Review Board.
But it also added conditions that the developer include another entrance at the corner of Sebastopol and Petaluma avenues to accommodate downtown pedestrians and to convert a one-way drive to a grass-covered fire lane.
The debate began at 8 p.m. Tuesday in front of an audience of 250, but the crowd dwindled to 50 by the time the council approved the project shortly after midnight.
Wilson and council members Patrick Slayter and Kathleen Shaffer voted yes, while Vice Mayor Mike Kyes and Sarah Gurney were opposed.
"If you make the conscious decision to come downtown, then you have to fit in with the downtown," said Gurney, who said she still is unhappy with the design.