People fed up with commercial cannabis grows in Sonoma County’s rural neighborhoods — all that smell, chemicals, lights, traffic, threat of crime — were totally bummed by the inaction of the Board of Supervisors last week. The panel tweaked the existing ordinance, primarily making 10 acres the minimum grow lot size, but did not engage on environment impacts or the nuisance factor. Neighborhood advocates wanted farms at least 1,000 feet from homes, for example, because of the persuasive stench and bright lights. But the board held that number to 300. Craig Harrison, of Save Our Sonoma Neighborhoods, said the board “caved to the marijuana lobby. I suspect there will soon be a wave of litigation”… Unlike the City of Sonoma, which chose to further study (again, and for $25,000) the issue rather than allow a ballot measure for public vote, the county went all-in on cannabis after the passage of Prop. 64. Like your roommate on a 3 a.m. run to 7-11, the county is hungry for dough, anxious to maximize the new tax source. It hasn’t yet penciled out. Revenue is lower than projections, and associated costs (permitting, code enforcement, etc.) are higher than expected. The newly-tweaked rules are industry-friendly: use permits last longer, payment schedules are easier, and the penalty for late filing is down to 10 percent from 25.
That move by the Sonoma Council was clearly a maneuver (because of state election deadlines) to deny placing the valid petition on the November ballot, according to a stern rebuke from the Sonoma County Democratic Party. In a resolution directed to the council, SCDP leadership demanded the city “take a clear stand of transparency and accountability, and against and corruption and cronyism.” The statement reminded two of the denying voters, Madolyn Agitmonti and David Cook, that they had been endorsed by SCDP in the past.
Speaking of elections, specifically the City Council race in November, here are the official candidates thus far for the three open seats: Agrimonti and Rachel Hundley, both incumbents; James Cribb; Jack Ding; Logan Harvey; Chris Petlock; and Jack Wagner. Missing from the list: incumbent Gary Edwards.
A trustee since 2002, Dan Gustafson won’t seek a fourth term on the Sonoma Valley School Board. Running for his seat to represent the Flowery District, is Melanie Blake, former teacher and Dunbar School principal. In her announcement, Blake, an educator with 34 years of experience in classroom and management experience, promises to “make school safety, high standards and fiscal responsibility” the cornerstones of her campaign.
The trademark-infringement lawsuit that Napa’s Caymus Vineyards filed against Sonoma’s Caymus Builders and Ed Routhier has been resolved, out of court. The winery, which trademarked the name “Caymus” in 1994, charged that the Sonoma firm continued to use the name despite repeated objections. The friction reached litigious levels last fall, when the construction company reportedly posted signs in Napa and Sonoma after the October fires. The postings alongside vineyard properties “likely caused confusion, mistake, or deception,” according to the complaint. The case disappeared with a confidential settlement agreement… Sonoma City officials and councilmembers, meanwhile, are huddling with lawyers to deal with the lawsuit filed by Bill Jasper, the developer who wants to build three mega-homes (probable market value: $7 million) high on the town’s backdrop Shocken Hill. He sued after the City Council upheld an appeal, halting the project. In so doing, the suit contends, the city violated the state’s affordable housing act — as in, the three homes (7k-20k sq, ft.) would help solve the housing crisis. Whatever the outcome of Jasper’s lawsuit, says Will Shonbrun, “it’ll be great fun to watch his lawyers try to convince a judge he’s building three houses totaling 37,000 sq. ft. for Sonoma’s workforce.”
— Val Robichaud
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