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Old Mission Peninsula Grapes | Jane Boursaw Photo
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Cemetery issues, farm processing facilities, bed and breakfast establishments and more are on Peninsula Township agendas this week. Here’s a roundup:

Planning Commission, July 16, 2018, 7 p.m., Township Hall

Bed & Breakfast: Discussion will take place regarding on-site managers for Bed and Breakfast establishments. In an email to Peninsula Township dated July 10, 2018, Maura Sanders noted that she owns a home on the Peninsula that was formerly a B&B, which she would like to turn back into a B&B. In order to do that, however, she would need to hire a qualified manager to live on-site, as she no longer lives in the area.

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Cindy Ruzak, owner of the Grey Hare Inn, has also been working with the Township on B&B issues. One of her requests is to remove the requirement that a B&B must be owner-occupied and operated at all times. She would like the Township to consider allowing a professional manager directly held responsible by the property owner to preserve the idea of “impact no greater than that of a single family residence.”

Ruzak is also requesting that the Township consider creating equity in land use for tourist accommodations, by filling in the gap between the one-acre B&B ordinance and the 50-acre Chateau ordinance – by allowing ag zoned properties one additional room for every five acres over the first five.

She would also like the option of increased guest activities, including the definition of “acceptable accessory uses” to include providing additional food products and services to guests, as well as allowing events “with no greater impact than that of a single family residence having a private party.”

Special Use Permit (SUP) 115: Also on the Planning Commission agenda, Walter Brys, owner of Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery, will make a presentation regarding his request for SUP 115, including revising the area designated as “Chateau Use Boundary,” changing the current designated resident manager site to a new location within the Chateau Use Boundary, increasing the approved number of guest rooms from two to seven by adding five guest rooms in the previously designated “Manager’s Residence,” and building a new Manager’s Residence.

Farm Processing Facility: Tonight’s Planning Commission will also include a presentation by John Wunsch on Farm Processing Facility – Section 6.7.2(19) of the Township Zoning Ordinance, which involves allowing 10,000 square feet of above-ground processing and storage building area for each 20 acres of active agriculture.

In a letter to Peninsula Township, Wunsch explains the backstory on this issue, which dates back to the 1990s:

Due to the fact that I was integrally involved in the township process of developing the current Peninsula Township use by right wine ordinance, I was asked if I would give a brief history of how it came to be for those who are now involved but were not a part of the process at the time.

I first want to say that I support the currently proposed adjustment to allow larger production space, without making any other changes to the ordinance. I think this would be a great enhancement to the peninsula grape growing and winery business.

I’ve discussed this with others who were involved in the process of creating the current ordinance language, and the support is clear from those of us involved on both sides of the negotiations that led to this current ordinance.

However, we feel strongly that there should be no other amendments or changes made to this ordinance.

In the late 1990s, a proposal was developed to allow small wineries as a use by right. The intention was to allow an easy path for new wineries on smaller parcels to open. It avoided the complexities of a winery chateau and the challenging effort of the special use permit it involved.

But there were differing opinions regarding a number of details, including the size of acreage necessary to open, and whether safeguards were necessary to avoid the potential of creating an easy path for wineries outside of Old Mission to use small acreage wineries as retail outlets for wine produced elsewhere. The proposal allowed wineries on parcels as small as five acres.

Additionally, there were differences as to whether small acreage wineries were appropriate locations for events such as weddings, and whether safeguards were necessary to insure these small wineries did not become or turn out to function more as general tourist oriented souvenir shops as opposed to essentially dedicated wineries with a selection of logo items to support marketing of the business.

Finally, there was a concern that these new wineries would need to be allowed on PDR preserved farms, which meant they should fit the identity of an essentially agriculture operation.

A compromise concept was developed shortly before the proposal was to be given final consideration by the planning commission. However, a great deal of effort had been put into the proposal as it stood, and as a result, the proposal was passed by both the planning commission and the Town Board.

As a result of that passage in that form, a referendum campaign was run and that winery proposal was defeated and nullified.

It is impossible to fully express the bitterness of the divide that resulted in the community during and especially after this vote. Those of us who were there and involved know we would never want to experience that again.

It was over a year before representatives from the opposing camps could bring themselves to meet and start an effort that lasted six months and resulted in an acceptable compromise that the board was able to pass two months later.

Returning to our current situation it is clear that this adjustment that has been proposed is a necessary and wise improvement, but that opening this ordinance to any other adjustments could easily re-open the conflicts and wounds from a time that none of us want to re-live.

I urge commission and board members to support the proposal to allow 10,000 feet of above-ground process and storage building area for each 20 acres of active agriculture.

Election Commission Meeting, July 17, 2018, 10 a.m., Township Conference Room

The commission will appoint election inspectors and chairs for the August 7, 2018 Primary Election.

Cemetery Committee Meeting, July 19, 2018, 3 p.m., Township Conference Room

This meeting of the Peninsula Township Cemetery Committee, composed of residents and staff, will identify issues surrounding the current cemeteries in the township and set study priorities on those issues. The public is welcome to attend. For more info, contact the clerk’s office, (231) 223-7321.

The Peninsula Township offices and Township Hall are located at 13235 Center Road on the Old Mission Peninsula. For more information on any of the agenda items, check out the meeting packets here.

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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