(Editor’s Note: An update on the winery lawsuit was on the agenda for last week’s Peninsula Township Board meeting. The Sept. 14 meeting was packed with township residents – both inside the building and in the parking lot – who had either submitted correspondence to the Township or were there to address the board during the public comment portion of the meeting.
In the lawsuit, filed by the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula (WOMP) against Peninsula Township in the fall of 2020, the wineries claim that numerous restrictions placed on them by the Peninsula Township zoning ordinance – including limitations on weddings, types of merchandise they can sell and guest events – is costing the wineries thousands of dollars in lost revenue each year.
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After the meeting, “Protect the Peninsula” (PTP) issued the following letter to the Old Mission Peninsula community, addressing the Township’s “secretive negotiation,” the need for an “open public discussion,” and the necessity of Township residents having a voice in winery rule changes “before the Township votes on loosening them.”
PTP is a community watchdog group that’s been working to protect and preserve the quality of life on the Old Mission Peninsula since the group was founded in 1979. Learn more about the group and their mission on their website. -jb)
Dear Neighbors and Friends of Old Mission Peninsula,
At Tuesday night’s Peninsula Township Board meeting, the WOMP (Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula) litigation was placed at the end of the lengthy agenda with this language attached to Item 8.11: “update on township litigation matters” and “possible closed session to discuss the winery lawsuit.”
Approximately 75-100 concerned citizens attended the meeting — wanting to know what was being discussed, why in a closed session, and to express their feelings and beliefs that the wineries have reached too far, that enough is enough.
During the public comment section at the beginning of the meeting, 25-plus residents spoke passionately against WOMP’s demands, expressing concerns about, in sum: too much noise, too much traffic, too many illegal events, and diminished quality of life.
Many residents also wrote letters, some of which were included in addenda to the first agenda and can be found [in the meeting packets] here. Others will be added to the Meeting minutes in the near future.
Later, during discussion of Agenda Item 8.11, it was disclosed that the Township and WOMP have been in negotiations over a settlement, which the board discussed further in closed session.
At the end of the meeting, it was revealed that Township representatives have participated in five mediation sessions with WOMP. There are no public details about the terms that have been discussed.
OMP resident John Wunsch and others respectfully asked for a public hearing to discuss the ongoing winery litigation.
When the Board returned from its confidential closed session, it voted to have an open informational meeting on the litigation. The actual proposed settlement remains undisclosed awaiting a second closed session of the PT board.
We thank all of you who came out to this meeting to voice your concerns. We need you to come out again and bring your neighbors and friends. The open meeting date has not been set but will be held soon at St. Joseph Catholic Church to accommodate all of us.
PTP insists there should be a full open public discussion about any winery rule changes the Township is considering before the Township votes on loosening them. While we appreciate the difficult task in front of the Township Board and realize a good settlement for all is possible, these are huge public policy issues for everyone on the peninsula.
A public process will better serve all parties and avoid backlash from a secretive negotiation with unexpected or unsatisfactory outcomes. As residents and taxpayers, we deserve to know what is happening in our community and have a voice.
Protect the Peninsula Board Members
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 like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like 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 of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my 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 Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb