Sebastopol city council to consider ban on chain stores

SEBASTOPOL, Calif. (KGO) -- A North Bay community is looking to avoid some changes.

In Sebastopol Tuesday the city council will consider banning all chain stores in an effort to protect the town's character and economy.

There's no mistaking a small city like Sebastopol, a town with a little more than 7,000 people and a pace that's slow enough that cars stop for pedestrians before they try to cross a street. In short, it's not a cookie cutter community and like many small cities, they're trying to keep it that way.

Long ago, during drives from one small town to another the differences could be felt and tasted. At a place like Screamin' Mimi's Ice Cream in Sebastopol that remains possible.

"Mimi's Mud is one of the flavors of Sebastopol," said one customer.

Though in Sebastopol, the word flavor expands beyond taste buds into an attitude and culture. There aren't many big national names along Main Street, if any. Tuesday night, the city council will hear the first draft of a motion to keep Sebastopol that way.

At the council's direction, city planner Kenyon Webster has penned an ordinance that would protect Sebastopol by restricting the development of formula restaurants, service or retail outlets.

"Well, I think it preserves the local character and local economy," Webster said. "It's about Sebastopol looking after the town and protecting its special character."

The ordinance would ban franchises other than banks, gas stations, hotels or motels.

For Michael Carnacchi, a custom bootmaker on Main Street, it's the equivalent of a small business insurance policy.

"If a big box store comes in, Boot Barn, and opens up down the road, well why would people come down here and have their boots custom made when they can go up to Boot Barn and have them for a quarter of the price," said Michael Carnacchi of Apple Cobbler.

The concept isn't being embraced by everyone.

"I think growth always happens. You should embrace it more than reject it," said Robert Willard a Sebastopol resident.

At least until they debate it beginning Tuesday night.

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