(Editor’s Note: Old Mission Peninsula resident Lou Santucci sent the following along on behalf of a new group formed in response to the ongoing winery lawsuit and negative attacks on OMP wineries.)
We are an organization of farmers and people who support farmers who want to express our view with regard to the winery issue on the Old Mission Peninsula.
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In our group, we have farmers who grow fruit, flowers and vegetables that are sold throughout the Peninsula and beyond. We are writing this letter as farmers to support the wineries, who are also our fellow farmers, our neighbors and good stewards of the land.
We have been struck by all the negative attacks leveled at the wineries because they are seeking changes to outdated and arguably illegal regulations. Clearly the Township does not want to budge. But one only has to go back a few years to remember that the Township prohibited the wineries from serving food with wine, which was bad public policy and, quite frankly, dangerous. It took the Michigan Liquor Control Commission ordering the Township to change before anything was done.
Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that the wineries are owned by people who live and work on the Peninsula, and many of them grew up here. Do you really think they want to ruin their own nest, so to speak? No, of course not! What they have done for the Peninsula is wonderful, and those who want to deny them the right to grow their business do not appreciate the economic and aesthetic value they have brought to the Peninsula.
The Peninsula is what it is today because of farmers and wineries. We have been blessed with the proper conditions to grow specialty fruit (grapes, cherries and apples), and it is our responsibility to do so in a sustainable manner. Likewise, the politicians must be both supportive of our agricultural opportunities and not hinder our work with arcane and out-of-date regulations.
Like us farmers, wineries farm the land and have given us the wonderful view sheds of acres upon acres of beautiful vineyards to look at. There are plenty of scare stories going around about what the wineries intend to do. Some of us have spoken directly to our neighbor winery owners, and we are convinced they truly will keep the interest of the Peninsula in their consideration.
All farmers, including the wineries, face economic, weather and pest-related challenges. We are constantly trying to find new ways to farm and new products that will help us stay afloat. We wouldn’t expect the wineries to do less.
Let’s support a way forward that allows the wineries to do some of the things they are asking for and some of the things they are clearly allowed to do by state and federal law. And let’s try to find a way to address concerns such as traffic. Let’s not use assumptions and fear mongering to dictate our policies. Let’s base it on real facts and adjust when necessary and legal.
Fifteen or more years ago, township leaders worked with wine growers/winery owners to develop rules to guide sustainable growth in our growing wine business. The rules need to be updated because competition keeps changing. Farmers and wineries are intertwined and must be mutually successful.
A regulatory taking via fiat will create a California-style environment as more city folks move in and farmers become a smaller and smaller minority. Farmers and wineries should have a seat at the table to protect the future of agriculture on the Old Mission Peninsula.
Signed on behalf of all the many farmers and friends who are in our group but were unavailable.
-Protect The Peninsula Farmers LLC, 12602 Center Rd., Traverse City, MI 49686
Louis Santucci, Irene van Harten, Mary Oosterhouse, Werner Kuenis, Ryan Bischoff, Eric Brown, David K. Weatherholt, Tom Petzhold, Dan Fouch, Curt Peterson, Edson Pontes, Ben Bramer, Jennifer Bramer, John Lyons, Gloria Lyons, Marc Santucci, Deborah Santucci, Bern Kroupa, Cheryl Kroupa, Garry Mannor, Bill MacDonald, Mary MacDonald, Tom Scheuerman, Linda Scheuerman, Jeremiah Warren, Molly Stretten, Jeff Miller
Hooray to the farmers keeping the Peninsula beautiful! We could be looking at miles of development instead! With no trees!
Agriculture is a fine protective AND economically beneficial use of Old Mission Peninsula land. The writer’s specious argument about wineries not “ruining their own nest”, however, rings hollow. Last I looked at it, these wineries were seeking to have amplified music until 10 PM or later at night. These proponents are likely folks who like to party and don’t mind hearing the noisy Nauticat on the Bay on some otherwise peaceful evenings. But you cannot do this in an area where it will infringe on the personal and property rights of others to not have this noise inflicted upon them. I say NO amplified music or speakers outside (or semi-outside) EVER on the Peninsula. Have your small wedding, have your quartet. We like outdoor music events, but the modern trend at parks is too often well over-amplified. We end up way at the fringe, so we can also converse during an outdoor concert. Sound research exists on the effect of noise on the population; let’s use decibel limits in crafting a way forward for the township, without losing the very reason people live here in the first place.
I happen to live 1/2 mile from two wineries on Center Road. I am 75 years old and my party days are over. My comments are based on how I feel about over the top restrictions on activities around the peninsula and it is not limited to the wineries. I think there is a lot of misinformation about what the wineries want. I can not speak for them but I do know many of the owners and know that they indeed do not want to dirty their own nest. so it does not ring hollow. The people who are against the wineries know full well that a lot of their arguments are not based on fact. Yes amplification limits and time limits are reasonable total bans are not. As you say let’s craft a way to move forward.
Is there a compromise here somewhere?
I believe there is a lot of room for compromise. For example let the wineries serve food without a 30 day prior approval requirement, and drop the requirement that it be “educational”. If they want to have a nice dinner set up why not.
Or how about weddings why should people not be allowed to avail themselves of the beautiful settings at the wineries. why not allow music inside the winery. Who does that disturb. I could go on and on. As I said I live a 1/2 mile from two wineries a
nd would support these activities. Why is a winery any different than the restaurants on the peninsula for that matter. I know a lot of the folks against the wineries raise two issues traffic and noise, both can be controlled. Why not use the money the township is spending on the lawsuit to hire a traffic control person for the weekends. And is the traffic really all that bad, Try living in a big city like I have for 50 years and then tell me about traffic. Sitting at a light at the end of the peninsula for a few cycles in not a traffic jam.
But we aren’t a big city, are we? If people wanted a big city atmosphere, they would have moved to a big city. I’m not completely against any of this but to act as though traffic will not be an enormous challenge is ludicrous. Booking a wedding at a winery will be very popular. Do the math…think what each weekend will be like on the peninsula if there is a wedding at each winery. (Even if it is a small wedding.) I’m all for change and progress but once certain doors are opened, it’s difficult to close them. Think about downtown TC; it still retains much of it’s “old” charm because of various ordinances/laws that prohibit willy-nilly businesses from moving in.
We don’t have to come down on completely opposing sides of this issue; but please don’t make it sound like the residents who live on Old Mission have no concerns. That simply isn’t true.
“Try living in a big city like I have for 50 years and then tell me about traffic.” This is not much of an argument, is it? Not much at all. I guess if you live in the big city for 50 years you get used to anything.
I copied the following from the Protect the Peninsula website. What part of it is misinformation? It doesn’t seem fair that wineries should be allowed uses that any other farmers are not allowed.
“WOMP hired a large downstate law firm and sued Peninsula Township in Federal Court. Here, in part, is what WOMP demands:
host commercial events, such as business conventions, weddings, and reunions
alcohol service from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week
concerts and outdoor amplified music until 2 a.m.
full restaurant service including catering and food trucks
retail sales of merchandise other than agricultural and wine
removal of requirement to use a percentage of grapes from Peninsula Township
Additionally, shortly after filing their lawsuit WOMP proposed:
up to 4 additional houses on each 5-acre agricultural plot for winery employees
wineries on any 5- acre agriculturally- zoned lot
wine tasting rooms of unlimited size
If a mere 1% of the 9,200 agriculturally-zoned acres in Peninsula Township took advantage of the 5-acre commercial use WOMP plan, there would be 92 more 7 a.m. – 2 a.m. event/restaurant businesses in our township. That is an over 800% increase from the current 11 wineries on Old Mission Peninsula, and potentially an untold increase in traffic, noise and other issues.”
I don’t want to get in a tit for tat on this. Let’s just say that I am a libertarian at heart and a firm believer in finding middle grounds on all issues not just the wineries. That’s why I support letting the judge decide whether or not the wineries have a case if the mediation process does not work out. I assume he will rule on the law and not on his feelings one way or another.
Mr S., please be careful of generalizing on these very important issues. And thank you Virginia, for siting the specifics of the wineries request. Compromise is admirable, but the law and zoning request are not only detailed and specific, but long-lasting, affecting generations that follow. We may wish to be friendly by loose and self-interpretive ideas, we may desire “middle ground” but this is not the place for simply hoping a certain business will behave as you wish. Details can make immeasurable differences.
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