Kenwood Press

Serving the communities of Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Oakmont

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News: 01/15/2020

Cannabis dispensary, cultivation projects in front of advisory board

A proposed cannabis dispensary in Kenwood, and three related cannabis cultivation requests in Glen Ellen are on the Jan. 22 agenda for the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission (SVCAC).

If approved by the county, the dispensary would be located in the Kenwood shopping center in empty space that last housed a tasting room.

As now allowed under state law, cannabis dispensaries can serve both medical and recreational customers, and, under county rules, must have a use permit to operate. A maximum of nine dispensaries are allowed in unincorporated Sonoma County.

The company that would run the Kenwood dispensary, Sonoma’s Finest 2.0, first applied for a permit in May of 2019. In August, the owners held an open house for local residents at the proposed space.

In general, concerns that have been expressed are about traffic congestion, security, and compatibility with the character of small-town Kenwood.

At the same time, a number of residents and businesses have no problem with the concept of having a dispensary in Kenwood.

The dispensary would operate Monday-Saturday within the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Concern about shopping center parking and Sonoma Highway traffic appear to be the most pressing issues.

The Kenwood shopping center is home to eight other businesses – four tasting rooms, a restaurant, market, branch of the U.S. Post Office, and the Kenwood Press.

As a way to potentially alleviate congestion, Sonoma’s Finest has amended its use permit application to include a delivery component, which the owners say will help with everyday traffic.

Sonoma’s Finest 2.0 is also asking for a waiver of setback rules for dispensaries. County regulations say a dispensary can’t be located within 1,000 feet of a public park (measured in a straight line), or 100 feet of a residentially zoned district. The dispensary falls within both of these setbacks.

However the county can grant waivers from the setback rule if it is shown that there is “an actual physical separation” between the dispensary and the park and residential parcels.

The proposed dispensary is within 1,000 feet of Shaw Park, and Sonoma’s Finest argues that the fences and buildings in between act as sufficient physical separation. And, the dispensary would be within 100 feet of Mission Avenue homes, with dispensary operators arguing that existing fencing, trees, and landscaping constitute adequate barriers to allow a waiver.

The use permit application will eventually be heard by the county’s Board of Zoning Adjustments at a yet to be scheduled public hearing.

Also on the SVCAC’s Jan. 22 agenda are three related cannabis cultivation projects, all on property owned by Gordenker Turkey Farms in the area of Trinity Road and Sonoma Highway. Part is a resubmittal for a cannabis cultivation site that was in operation but burned in the October 2017 wildfires.

A portion of the project would require a reclamation process for the old Trinity Quarry.

Envisioned is over 40,000 square feet of outdoor cultivation, 10,000 square feet of greenhouse grow, and 5,000 square feet of an indoor wholesale cannabis nursery. Also proposed is 20,000 square feet of centralized cannabis processing within a barn.

Recently, the county Board of Supervisors OK’d faster processing of cannabis cultivation projects, voting to move applications from the County’s Permit Sonoma department to the county’s agriculture division. This eliminates the opportunity for the public to appeal cannabis farm applications since cannabis is now being treated like other agricultural crops, such as vineyards and orchards.

A number of current cultivation projects already started will now have review taken over directly by the Board of Supervisors, known as ‘original jurisdiction.’ This includes the Trinity Road/Sonoma Highway proposals.

Download the application at UPC19-0006 Revised jan 12 .

The SVCAC is a panel that reviews valley development projects and land use issues, and makes recommendations to county planning officials.

The SVCAC meeting on Jan. 22 will start at 6:30 p.m. in the Sonoma City Council chambers, 177 First St. West in Sonoma.

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