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County Nixes Medical Pot Club

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Probably Dooms Future Attempts in Sonoma Valley

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted 3-0 Tuesday afternoon to deny a pot club permit in the old Nicholas Turkey building just across the Ig Vella Bridge at 19445 Riverside Drive.

Following nearly three hours of discussion and public testimony, the Supervisors, sitting with a bare, three-person quorum, voted to deny the application by Dona Frank of Creekside Medical Organics. Frank had been hoping to open the dispensary in leased office space toward the back of the concrete block building that sits adjacent to Sonoma Creek just across from Maxwell Farms Regional Park. The permit application had won the support of the Sonoma Valley Citizen's Advisory Commission in a nonbinding 6-1 vote.

But 1st District Supervisor Valerie Brown had already voiced opposition to the application, saying her biggest concern with the site was the issue of public safety. Unlike a medical marijuana dispensary also run by Frank on a highly visible lot just outside Santa Rosa city limits, the Riverside Drive location is out of sight from the street and would have been hard for sheriff's deputies to patrol, Brown said.

"That is an incredibly isolated spot," Brown added after the hearing. "From my perspective, this was really about safety."

Sonoma County's medical cannabis dispensary ordinance, passed by the Board of Supervisors in March, establishes several location criteria for a permitted facility. Those criteria include the requirements that dispensaries be more than 1,000 feet from a school or park and more than 100 feet from a residential district. The Riverside site was 53 feet from the nearest residence and well under 1,000 feet from Maxwell Farms Regional Park.

The residence proximity condition could have been waived at the discretion of the Supervisors because there were physical barriers between the Nicholson building and nearby homes, but according to Brown that wasn't the issue.

"I had the opportunity to inspect the site," she said. "I walked the landscape. It's simply not safe enough. Seclusion is the problem."

Brown pointed out that the creekbed behind the facility is the same general terrain traveled by the assailant who shot and killed Luis Miranda in Maxwell Farms Regional Park on Oct. 22. During the hearing, supervisors praised Frank's management of her Santa Rosa facility, but dispensary spokesperson Lisa Gygax, a Forestville attorney, said the praise didn't mean much.

"We weren't looking for accolades. We were following the rules. We're very disappointed in the vote," she said. Gygax charged the County's Permit and Resource Management Department ( PRMD ), which recommended against granting the permit, of "institutionalized discrimination. They hid behind the 100-foot parcel rule and ignored the physical barriers in place." Gygax also said that PRMD "lost 500 letters from Sonoma residents in support of the site."

Asked if her client would look for another Sonoma Valley dispensary site, Gygax said, "Unless the City of Sonoma passes an ordinance, I don't see it happening any time soon." Brown herself acknowledged that it may be hard to find a Valley location that conforms to the requirements of the county ordinance. "I imagine it's going to be hard," she said.


Source: Sonoma Index-Tribune, The (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Sonoma Valley Publishing
Contact: david@sonomanews.com
Website: sonomanews.com
 
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