Supes Deny Permit For Medical Marijuana Dispensary Near Sonoma

November 26, 2007

, KTVU TV2 (San Francisco)

Sonoma County's Board of Supervisors denied a use permit late Tueday afternoon for a medical cannabis dispensary off Riverside Drive just outside the limits of the City of Sonoma. The 3-0 vote with two board members absent came after a three-hour hearing. Most of those who spoke during the public portion of the hearing favored the proposal by Dona Frank who operates the Organic Cannabis Foundation of

075em solid blue; font-weight: normal; font-size: 100%; text-decoration: underline; color: blue; background-color: transparent; padding-bottom: 1px;' href='' target='_blank' itxtdid='4343707'>Northern California dispensary on Santa Rosa Avenue in Santa Rosa. But Sonoma area neighbors said they are concerned about traffic, crime and reduced property values they believed the dispensary would cause. The proposed dispensary within an existing 2,624-square foot commercial space occupied by other commercial uses is 53.16 feet within the nearest residential zoning district.

The county's ordinance that regulates medical marijuana dispensaries requires a 100-foot setback.

"I missed it by 46.84 feet," a disappointed Frank said after the hearing. Board Chair

Valerie Brown, in whose district the dispensary would have been located, and Supervisor Mike Kerns said they were mainly concerned with the location of the dispensary so close to a residential area in violation of the ordinance. Supervisor Tim Smith agreed but also cited concerns about traffic and security.

"I hate deviating from an ordinance we worked so hard on. The burden (to obtain a use permit) falls on the applicant to assuage the fears of the neighbors," Smith said.

The county's Permit and Resource Management Department recommended denying the use permit "based on the proximity to a residential neighborhood and compatibility concerns related to noise, crime, and presence of school children in the vicinity."

Lisa Gygax, Frank's attorney, called the decision a "backwards ban." No existing medical marijuana dispensaries in the county, two in Santa Rosa and one in Sebastopol, are more than 100 feet from a residential area, Gygax said after the hearing.

Frank's proposed dispensary was the first application for a dispensary in the unincorporated area of the county. Proponents of the dispensary said other commercial units operating in the building on the 4.14-acre site do not have use permits. Frank said her dispensary in Santa Rosa, which has been operating for three years, does not have a permit and is surrounded on three sides by residential zones. It opened before a permit was required.

"No one can traverse this ordinance. The rules are so strict, no one in the county can comply. I feel the deck is stacked and they know it," Frank said.

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