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Cannabis dispensary appeal filed

By Jay Gamel

Paul Morrison, on behalf of Protect Our Sonoma Valley Neighborhoods, appealed a Board of Zoning Adjustments decision to permit a cannabis dispensary on the corner of Arnold Drive and Madrone Road, just outside Glen Ellen and the Sonoma Developmental Center. Though heartily opposed by many neighbors who attended the virtual April 8 BZA hearing, all five BZA members approved the project, which must still be approved by the county’s Board of Supervisors.

The BZA decision was basically to not require the applicant, John Lobro and Loe Firehouse Dispensary, LLC, to do a complete Environmental Impact Report to proceed with the project. Lobro’s project has been wending its way through the county approval process since 2017, a process bogged down by wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic until recently.

“This neighborhood is 99 percent residential and full of families,” Morrison said in an interview after he filed the appeal on April 19. “This is a highly commercial project for this area. It needs to be offices or some other lowimpact use.” Morrison paid a filing fee of $1,209 to make the appeal. Lobro seemed to take the appeal in stride. “It’s very frustrating, but we kind of expected it,” Lobro said. “We had a week to enjoy the unanimous vote, then got the email. It’s another period of time we have to pay for the building that is sitting there empty, paying consultants’ expenses.”

Both sides assert support, but many nearby residents just do not like the idea of a pot store in the neighborhood, no matter how secure and well organized it might be. While the project was originally designed to dispense medical products only, the county’s cannabis rules have changed to allow retail sales as well as medical sales on the same premises.

The BZA commissioners found the fact that the firehouse is actually within 100 feet of several homes was not significant, and that requirement had been waived in several similar applications. However, the appeal asserts that increased traffic, parking congestion, and the presence of a school bus stop next to the building, among other things, should be enough to push the project elsewhere.

The seven-page appeal cites legal issues, setbacks, what constitutes a proper “physical separation” between the project and residences, and calculations for parking spaces required, and questions a two-year-old traffic report. It also notes the project was not recommended by the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Council in 2018, by a 5-4 vote against.

The appeal and project will be considered at a future meeting of the Board of Supervisors. Information and related documents may be obtained by contacting County Planner III Crystal Acker at (707) 565-8357, or emailing her at [email protected]