Sebastopol council signs off on CVS at emotional hearing
Sebastopol’s City Council voted 3-2 Thursday to approve redesigned plans for a disputed CVS store at a downtown crossroads in a wrenching meeting that brought several council members to tears and had some vowing to boycott the national chain.
Mayor Robert Jacob, pledging $5,000 of his own money to kick-start “a well-funded, thoughtful and protracted campaign” against the store, and Councilman John Eder, dressed in black for “the funeral of my optimism,” cast “no” votes, acknowledging the project design would pass in any case as a condition of a recently negotiated settlement.
Vice Mayor Patrick Slayter and council members Una Glass and Sarah Glade Gurney voted “yes,” each stipulating they did so only to avoid continuing litigation that already had cost the city more than $336,000 in legal fees they could not recover under law.
They also highlighted concessions made by CVS that helped offset their dissatisfaction with what they said would blight the entrance to town in defiance of the community’s will.
“Sometimes you have to move on,” Glass said. “And I think we should move on. What we need to do now is to make it a priority that this kind of mistake doesn’t happen again.”
“I do see this as some sort of victory, although it’s one that I enter into with a sick heart,” Gurney said.
But Gurney, struggling to compose herself, clearly called out the family of Angelo “Pete” Pellini, founder of the former Pellini Chevrolet, which closed in 2008. That ultimately led to the sale of the 2.45-acre property on the corner of Highway 12 and Petaluma Avenue for development by CVS.
“That CVS owns this really prominent corner … is the legacy of a local family,” Gurney said, suggesting the family, who she did not mention by name, had other options for selling the parcel.
“So it is their legacy that we will live with,” she said.
She and other council members also cited a 2011 vote by a 3-2 council majority approving what’s called a negative declaration they now believe was faulty. The declaration indicated the project’s environmental impacts were not sufficient to warrant a full-blown environmental impact report. Gurney and the late Councilman Michael Kyes were in the minority that night. Slayter voted in the majority, with two former council members.
Thursday’s action approving the project redesign was required to finalize a legal settlement hammered out over many months between the city, CVS/Long’s Drugs, Armstrong Development Properties Inc. and a citizens group called the Committee for Small Town Sebastopol. The citizens group sued in 2011, challenging the city’s failure to conduct a full environmental impact report on the store proposal.
The council voted 5-0 in closed session Monday to approve the settlement, which also resolves a lawsuit CVS filed against the city in response to a temporary ban on drive-thru windows approved in 2012. CVS and Armstrong initially wanted drive-thru windows at the pharmacy and at a second, smaller building on the site that had been planned for a Chase bank. Chase has since withdrawn, and the settlement eliminates all drive-thru features.
But council members Thursday said they believed that throughout negotiations and even in the days since the settlement was approved that CVS was not negotiating in good faith.
They said drawings requested repeatedly from CVS arrived only Tuesday evening, showing not a two-story building city officials said they had been promised, but a single-story retail store with a high exterior walls and false windows that only suggest the existence of a second floor.