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Settlement close in Sebastopol CVS lawsuits

  • The Pellini Chevrolet dealership in Sebastopol closed in 2008. (KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)

Sebastopol, CVS and a citizens group have reached a tentative settlement in a pair of lawsuits over the drugstore chain's downtown project. The settlement allows the company to move forward with its pharmacy at the busy intersection of Petaluma and Sebastopol avenues after agreeing to drop a proposed drive-thru window, the feature that drew the most heated opposition.

“I think it's a big win for the city,” said councilwoman Sarah Gurney. “This settlement reflects the preferences of the community.”

The agreement, which was reached Tuesday and must be approved by the council later this month, puts an end to an issue that had roiled the city for three years. Two new council members were elected in 2012 on a wave of opposition to the project.

After the city in 2011 signed off on the initial plans for the development on the 2.5-acre former Pellini auto dealership, a group called Small Town Sebastopol sued the city and Armstrong Development, saying the environmental study for the proposed CVS and Chase Bank was flawed. The new city council in late 2012 placed a moratorium on drive-thrus, which essentially halted CVS's plans. CVS then sued the city over the ban.

City Manager Larry McLaughlin said the settlement frees up money the city had budgeted to fight the costly lawsuits.

“I'm very happy that the bulk of the money for litigation expenses will be able to be devoted to other uses,” he said.

As part of the settlement, CVS and Armstrong Development agreed to drop their opposition to the ban on drive-thrus. The developer will also divide the property into five lots instead of the originally proposed two, which will allow for other businesses at the location. The pharmacy will include solar panels on the roof, and there will be no vehicle access to the site from left turns, which could have created traffic headaches.

CVS will pay the city and Small Town Sebastopol $150,000 to mitigate traffic impacts and to cover Small Town Sebastopol's legal fees for the litigation.

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