The Kenwood Press
News: 09/01/2019

Kenwoodians give feedback on cannabis dispensary

Alec Peters

Owners of a proposed cannabis dispensary in Kenwood held a community meeting on Aug. 21, with about 20 attendees giving their input, much of it focused on potential parking and traffic issues.

If approved by the county, the dispensary, which would serve both medical and recreational users, would be located in the Kenwood shopping center in space formerly occupied by Orpheus Winery.

Three partners of Sonoma’s Finest 2.0 hosted the get together, pledging to work with the community over any potential issues. The company has filed for a use permit with the county to operate the dispensary and is in the early stage of the county review process. The county’s cannabis ordinance allows up to nine dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County.

Parking was a major concern of residents at the meeting. The proposed location opens up both to the shopping center courtyard and the back parking lot, where many park to go the post office.

The Kenwood shopping center is home to a number of businesses, including wine tasting rooms, a restaurant and market, and has parking on both sides of the complex.

In correspondence after the meeting, David Scott, one of the partners in Sonoma’s Finest 2.0 said they would be conducting a traffic study to try to determine solutions to parking impacts. He also said there will be an update to the use permit application to add a delivery service component to the business, which he said should reduce parking issues. Scott said he currently estimates an average of 100 people a day would come into the dispensary.

One meeting attendee said he would like to see the dispensary’s business plan to see how the dispensary will accommodate a growing number of clients. It’s possible the Kenwood dispensary, if approved, could be the only one between Sonoma and Santa Rosa for some time.

Other concerns expressed at the meeting involved security worries, and the use of cannabis products by buyers outside the dispensary and in the general environs of Kenwood. Dispensary representatives said there are security personnel on site at all times, they would be willing to hire more, and that county rules forbid the consumption of cannabis on site. Security cameras would also be used.

As part of their application, the dispensary may have to ask the county for waivers of setback rules that state a dispensary can’t be within 1,000 feet of a public park, or within 100 feet of a residentially zoned district. Those rules can be waived if there is an “actual physical separation” between the two parcels, such as buildings or a fence.

Kenwood resident Will Strickland said his main concern was with traffic, and he especially doesn’t want a situation that occurs with wine tasting in the area, where tour buses and limousines park on neighborhood streets and leave their engines running.

Sonoma County has been encouraging more “cannabis tourism” as part of its tourism programs.

Overall though, he said, he felt dispensary representatives were listening to residents.

“It sounded like they want to work with the community to address our issues,” said Strickland.

Scott said dispensary partners would continue contacting residents and businesses in the area to talk about the dispensary. He said that outreach so far has indicated “overwhelming support” of the dispensary, and wants to work with all parties on how to “best integrate into the community.” Scott also said he plans on holding another open house.

The use permit application will eventually have to be approved at a public hearing of the county’s Board of Zoning Adjustments.