Glen Ellen cannabis dispensary proposed
MARCH 15, 2021
Long-delayed rezoning application for Arnold Drive project will go to zoning board in April
By Jay Gamel
Since June of 2018, when the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission voted 5-4 to ask for more information on traffic and parking at a former firehouse at Arnold Drive and Madrone Road before making a final recommendation to approve a cannabis dispensary, no further news has emerged on the status of the project application. The intervening massive wildfire of 2019 and 2020’s global pandemic slowed down many agencies and projects over the last 18 months.
That silence ended last month, when Permit Sonoma published a notice recommending the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) approve a Negative Declaration of Environmental Impact, clearing the way to move the application forward.
According to recent Permit Sonoma records, Hogan Land Services of Santa Rosa is now managing the project for applicant Loe Firehouse, LLC, owned by John Lobro and Samantha Smith, and the property has been purchased from the previous owners and tenants, a medical device company. “I have been the 100-percent owner from the start,” Lobro said recently, responding to confusion about people named in the original 2018 application.
The Lobros live in Sebastopol but have roots running deep into the local community, Lobro said.
A draft Initial Study and Negative Declaration exempting the applicant from having to fund an Environmental Impact Report was published on Feb. 26 by Permit Sonoma. There will be a 30-day public review period running through March 29, during which comments can be submitted by the public and added to the public record, according to the notice prepared by project planner Crystal Acker.
“This hearing is tentatively scheduled for (April 8), at which time the Board of Zoning Adjustments can decide whether to or not issue a negative declaration,” Bradly Dunn said, responding to an email inquiry. Dunn is policy manager for Permit Sonoma. “An appeal can be filed within 10 days of the project decision.”
After the comment period ends, the proposed negative declaration will be reviewed by staff and presented at a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Adjustments, tentatively scheduled for April 8. A final hearing notice will be published 10 days before the confirmed hearing date.
The project site is a former firehouse at 15999 Arnold Drive, with a second entrance on Madrone Road. One of three commercial properties in the otherwise residential neighborhood, it had a short life as a firehouse, then housed an apartment and medical device Dispensary – from page 1
business. It was built in 1984.
The application to have a medical marijuana dispensary at the site was made in June of 2017, one of dozens of similar applications submitted immediately after the county made marijuana dispensaries legal a month earlier. Janet Friedman and Apothevert were listed as applicants, along with property owner Ergas Properties, which had agreed to sell the property in the event the application was approved.
A dozen people, most living in the surrounding neighborhood, voiced objections to the dispensary at an extended public hearing before the SVCAC on May 21, 2018, with residents objecting to a pot dispensary in a family residential area.
“I’m not against medicinal dispensaries, just not in my neighborhood,” Pam Palmgren told the commissioners at that packed meeting. Other residents echoed that opinion, adding concerns about traffic, noise, smell, and the fact that it doesn’t meet a 100-foot setback from residences requirement in the county ordinance. Exceptions to that requirement can be made.
At the same time, the applicant provided many letters from people throughout the valley and the neighborhood, in support of having a dispensary at the site.
Increased traffic, exposure to children, possible unsavory clientele, increased targeting for robbery and burglary attempts, and lack of parking were some of the reasons aired for not approving the application.
Supporters argued that the business is legal, not that different from wine tasting and other alcohol services, and that the application called for controlled access at all times.
The Initial Study and proposed Negative Declaration of Environmental Impact published in February finds no significant impacts on 21 specific topics and three mandatory “findings of significance” concerning environmental degradations (no impact), cumulative impacts (less than significant), or impacts on people (less than significant).
In all, the initial study found “no impact” or “less than significant” impacts for: aesthetics, agricultural and forest resources, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, energy, geology and soils, greenhouse gas emission, hazards and hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, land use and planning, mineral resources, noise, population and housing, public services, recreation, transportation, tribal cultural resources, utility and service systems, and wildfires.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, project materials and associated documents are available only through the project planner, Crystal Acker. She can be reached at [email protected] or at 707-565-8357.