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Vineyard owner files second lawsuit challenging a cannabis project



A recently approved cannabis farm north of Paso Robles faces a legal challenge in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court—and one of the plaintiffs is a familiar face.

Stephanie Shakofsky, a North County vineyard owner, is listed alongside Save Rural SLO as plaintiffs on the Sept. 17 lawsuit, which seeks to reverse SLO County's approval of four greenhouses of cannabis cultivation.

CHALLENGED An environmentally focused lawsuit is challenging a cannabis grow near Paso Robles that was recently approved. - FILE PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMAN
  • File Photo By Dylan Honea-Bauman
  • CHALLENGED An environmentally focused lawsuit is challenging a cannabis grow near Paso Robles that was recently approved.

The lawsuit alleges that the project—which includes 20,000 square feet of cannabis cultivation and processing activities—did not have adequate environmental review analyzing groundwater and noise impacts. It claims that the cannabis farm would require more water and generate more noise than originally studied.

"A fair argument exists that the project may have significant impacts on the environment, thus warranting preparation of an Environmental Impact Report," the lawsuit filed by Aptos law firm Wittwer Parkin LLP states.

The suit asks a judge to set aside the county's approval and order additional environmental review.

It's not the first local cannabis lawsuit initiated by Shakofsky. In May, Shakofsky and a residential group filed a similar suit to halt a cannabis project on York Mountain Road near Templeton. As that litigation progressed, the applicants withdrew their plans due to escalating costs.

The latest dispute is centered on cannabis' alleged impacts to a 41-acre parcel at 7755 Airport Road. Coastal Elevations—previously a North County medical cannabis delivery business—and Nouel Riel Cellars Inc. are the applicants on the project.

On Aug. 13, the SLO County Board of Supervisors heard and rejected an appeal led by seven area residents, who cited water, odor, and noise concerns.

Shakofsky was not named as an appellant in the appeal. She is a hydrologist and former director of the Oakland-based Center for Creative Land Recycling and owns Saint Marie Vineyard near Paso Robles. Her lawsuits hit as a swell of residential opposition builds to the cannabis industry in SLO County—which has caused county supervisors to consider tightening their cannabis ordinance.

"At the heart of the legal challenges is the fact that the county is fast-tracking these cannabis permits through the process without fully understanding the impacts of growing cannabis next to family homes and traditional agriculture," Shakofsky said in an emailed statement. "The county is allowing what technically amounts to a heavy industrial use to be placed right next door to family homes and ranches without the proper review of the environmental and human health impacts. ... We believe the county has been derelict in their duty to protect human health and the environment—particularly when it comes to water and our already severely depleted groundwater aquifers."

An attorney representing Nouel Riel Cellars told New Times in response to the lawsuit that the Airport Road applicants were "extremely concerned about the environment."

"We will do whatever we have to do to comply with all regulations and health concerns," said Tim Post, the attorney.

Editor's Note: This article was updated online post publication to include a statement from Stephanie Shakofsky.

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