(Old Mission Peninsula resident W. William Rudolph responds to Barb Wunsch’s opinion piece posted on the Gazette this weekend here. He says the ordinance favors wineries over traditional farming, and there should be no special treatment for wineries regarding agricultural land use. Read on … jb)
Thank you Barb Wunsch, et. al. for a well thought out discussion of the disparity between the way the wineries have been treated, by ordinance, and the way the traditional orchard farms have been treated. The fact that there is a discrepancy that weighs heavily in favor of the wineries has been tugging at the back of my mind for some time, but you have put it so clearly and succinctly that it is now apparent to me why it has been bothering me.
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As I see it, the only real difference between the traditional, tree based agriculture and the wineries is that vineyards do not ship their fruit off the peninsula, but rather turn it into a value added product on site. On the other hand, as I understand it, traditional tree based growers market their crop, for the most part, off the peninsula. And I surmise that may be the reason the township planners originally saw a difference in winery operations vs the traditional fruit tree based agriculture.
Nevertheless, by viewing the wineries as different from traditional fruit growers, and then granting special privileges to the wineries, above and beyond the production of wine, that were not afforded to the traditional agricultural enterprises, the Township has indeed set up an unforeseen value bias in favor of wineries, at the expense of traditional agriculture. Clearly this has resulted in the explosive expansion of wineries on the peninsula since 2000. And this expansion has been at the expense of traditional fruit growing agricultural enterprises.
We can all have separate opinions whether orchards or vineyards are more attractive. And we can argue among ourselves which makes the best use of the agricultural land. But, I think it is clear that the bias, caused by the land use ordinances, is real, and that it artificially forces a shift in agricultural practices, as Ms. Wunsch has detailed for us.
In my opinion, this makes the coercive WOMP (Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula) lawsuit even more absurd in its claims of overly restrictive treatment. In fact, the wineries have been given a great many privileges not afforded to normal agriculture use on the peninsula. In my opinion, I believe those privileges have been very good to the wineries as well, judging by the observation that parking lots at the wineries are full and there are usually one of two winery tour buses appearing there as well. This tells me that the wineries should be doing quite well, and the argument that they are losing money by not having even more special privileges does not agree with what I am observing with my own eyes.
In the end, it still seems to me that the WOMP lawsuit is a coercive attempt to misuse the federal court system to force changes to the local ordinances that may not be desired by the majority of the taxpayers of Peninsula Township. As such, it puts WOMP in an adversarial position with their neighbors. This is usually not a good thing, and it will be interesting to see how the issue is finally resolved.
I have talked with many people about the issue, and there are a variety of opinions, as one would expect. Perhaps the ordinances dealing with wineries use do need to be revised to accommodate some of their requests. But I also agree with Ms. Wunsch and her friends that what is good for the goose is good for the gander, and there should be no special treatment of the wineries as far as agricultural use of the land goes.
Thank you again, Old Mission Gazette, for allowing me to express my opinion. I very much appreciate your unbiased coverage of the issue. And very much appreciate your being here as a sounding board for the community.