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Suit filed against Glen Ellen pot dispensary

By Chris Rooney

Despite getting approval from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in September, a proposed pot dispensary in southern Glen Ellen is now facing a legal challenge.

A group called Protect Our Sonoma Valley Family Neighborhoods (POSVFN) filed suit last week, claiming the supervisors violated a number of zoning issues for the project at the Loe Firehouse, located at Arnold Drive and Madrone Road.

“The group feels strongly that the board of supervisors has an obligation to protect Sonoma Valley residents by enforcing their published zoning codes and traffic guidelines regarding cannabis facilities within a 99%-dominant residential community,” POSVFN’s attorney, Rachel Mansfield-Howlett, asserted in a prepared statement.

In a move that could slow down or potentially derail the proposed dispensary, POSVFN is asking county officials to rescind the dispensary’s approvals and to conduct an environmental impact report (EIR).

John and Samantha Loe (formerly John Lobro and Samantha Smith) applied for the retail cannabis shop four years ago. Approved earlier this year, it was confronted by a POSVFN appeal that was determined to be invalid by county officials — all of which leads to the current suit.

In the group’s petition, the county’s own regulations are cited as proof that the supervisors acted inappropriately. Despite zoning rules to the contrary, Mansfield-Howlett wrote the cannabis project is “surrounded by residential uses and is admittedly situated too close to several nearby residences. The writ claims 187 residences surround the project site, mostly in a nearby 122-unit apartment complex situated within 100 feet of the dispensary location, a decommissioned firehouse.

“Members of Family Neighborhoods, Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA), and other concerned residents expressed throughout the public hearing process that the Cannabis Dispensary Project violates the County’s parking and residential set-back requirements for cannabis dispensaries and is inappropriately sited in a residential community without adequate separators to warrant a waiver of the 100’ [100-foot] setback provision,” reads POSVFN’s petition.

“These civil CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] cases usually take 8–10 months to get to a hearing on the merits,” said Mansfield-Howlett. “With COVID and staffing cuts, the court has been pretty backed up and recent cases have taken longer than expected.”