CVS Pharmacy, Chase Bank suing Sebastopol over drive-thru moratorium

The developer of the CVS Pharmacy-Chase Bank branch project is suing Sebastopol, a city where debates over development are often lengthy and virulent.

The suit claims that a 45-day moratorium enacted by the City Council on new drive-thrus, an integral part of the CVS Pharmacy project planned for the vacant Pellini Chevrolet dealership, jeopardizes their proposal that already has the necessary approvals.

An ordinance banning drive-thrus would be "arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory," according to the suit filed in Sonoma County Superior Court on Christmas Eve.

Sebastopol, like any city in California, is entitled to re-evaluate its policies while using emergency ordinances to maintain the status quo, Larry McLaughlin, interim city manager, said Monday in defense of the City Council action.

McLaughlin also denied that the ordinance was directed at the CVS Pharmacy project, but meant to address the issue citywide.

McLaughlin admitted, however, that the ordinance could mean that, if the City Council decides on enacting a ban on drive-thrus, that CVS would be affected.

"If you have not received a building permit or started building, the city can changes its laws," McLaughlin said. "Nothing is frozen in place because you have a project approval. Cities are free to change their laws."

Controversy over development is standard fare in Sebastopol.

The Northeast Specific Development Plan was decisive three years ago in a City Council election, opponents of the O'Reilly and Associates' new facility almost drove the iconic business out of town in 1996 and the Laguna Vista subdivision is still up in the air a decade after it was first proposed.

Currently, Armstrong Development Inc. of Sacramento is planning to build a CVS Pharmacy and Chase Bank branch on 2.5 acres at Petaluma and Sebastopol avenues, one of the city's most prominent and busiest intersections.

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