Protect the Peninsula; Vineyard netting at Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery | Jane Boursaw Photo
Vineyard netting at Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery | Jane Boursaw Photo

Protect the Peninsula (PTP) will not be allowed to intervene in the ongoing winery lawsuit filed by the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula (WOMP) against Peninsula Township. The wineries filed the suit in the fall of 2020, seeking less restrictions on their events and activities.

On Thursday, Oct. 21, Judge Paul Maloney of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan denied a motion from PTP to intervene in the lawsuit. Read more about the ruling in Craig Manning’s story over at The Ticker. The 42-year-old Peninsula watchdog group took action to join the fight in February 2021, noting that they have a vested interest in the outcome of the lawsuit. Read the winery’s amended complaint and demands here.

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In a note to Peninsula residents posted on the NextDoor group, PTP says they will continue to support Peninsula Township in the lawsuit. From Michael Dettmer, a member of PTP’s Board of Directors:

From our perspective, after the court denying our intervention, PTP is considering its options, including an appeal, and will continue supporting the Township Board in its defense of this unnecessary litigation filed by the wineries to circumvent a public zoning process. Litigation, especially threatening to sue public officials individually, is a way to sidestep public discussion and exert pressure. Our position has always been and continues to be that changes to the Township’s zoning ordinances should be a public process with input from and to the collective benefit of all facets of the community.

Recently, the Township and WOMP again entered into negotiations through a confidential (and voluntary) mediation process. After some 25 hours of confidential discussions, the 11 wineries suing the Township believed they had reached an enforceable settlement agreement. Based on the large numbers of people who attended and spoke at the Peninsula Township Board’s community meeting on Oct. 6 (read more and watch the meeting here), it is clear that the only group that wants to significantly change winery ordinances are the wineries themselves. (And, thank all of you for coming and expressing your views.) The Township, in closed session in that meeting, voted to reject the wineries’ proposed settlement, and began developing a citizens committee to review winery complaints and ordinances.

The wineries remain unhappy and don’t appear to be taking community concerns into consideration. They have now filed a motion to enforce this secret settlement. That motion is presently under the court’s consideration. I believe they will lose that motion and the litigation will proceed.

PTP will be assisting the Township in any way they might ask and we think is in the best interests of the citizens of OMP. Thank you for your continued support and interest. Please feel free to visit protectthepeninsula.com where most of the court documents and zoning history is posted. If you have any questions, we are happy to respond. Contact us at [email protected].

Read more about Protect the Peninsula and their mission at their website.

Read all winery lawsuit news and opinions on the Gazette here.

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