(Protect the Peninsula, a citizen advocacy group formed in 1979 to protect and preserve the scenic and rural character of the Old Mission Peninsula, responds to a statement by the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula published in the Gazette on Nov. 2 – read that statement here. – jb)
The Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula (WOMP) issued a statement in Old Mission Gazette on Nov. 2. Several of WOMP’s significant errors were corrected by Peninsula Township’s Supervisor in the Gazette on Nov. 12. This addresses other problems with WOMP’s statement.
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WOMP indicates that they seek to preserve the beauty of our community, but what’s sought by their lawsuit is far more likely to damage that beauty than preserve it. WOMP’s legal actions speak louder than its words.
WOMP states that it’s asking for an “impact-based ordinance,” when its lawsuit really seeks to set the wineries entirely free from any Peninsula Township zoning. The lawsuit doesn’t seek changes to zoning; it seeks the end of zoning. The lawsuit shows that WOMP seeks restaurants, late hours, and unlimited events, which are clearly high-impact changes.
WOMP alleges that it reached a secret settlement with the Township in September. The Township denies an agreement was reached, and on November 15, U.S. District Court Judge Maloney agreed with the Township.
The wineries also allege that the secret settlement protects fellow residents and the rights of all community members. How would we know that when WOMP refuses to disclose the details? This effort to force a secret agreement upon the Township and its residents demonstrates a clear preference to dispense with open meetings and transparent decision-making.
WOMP’s lawsuit strays an alarming distance from our community history. In the late 1980s, vineyard owners on Old Mission Peninsula won their campaign for federal recognition of Old Mission Peninsula as a wine “viticulture” – a distinct wine region, qualifying for an appellation. This appellation requires at least 85% of the grapes to be locally grown. Since then, Peninsula appellation wines are recognized in national and international competitions.
Founding Peninsula vintners so believed in appellation that one sued in court to defend the Peninsula appellation. In 2002, Peninsula Township Trustees honored that “appellation” in the ordinance. This standard helped WOMP members prosper and stand apart in their field while assuring that Old Mission land would remain in agriculture. But now, WOMP claims this standard is holding them back and they should be able to serve wine made from grapes grown anywhere.
In 1989, Bob Begin of Chateau Chantal had a vision for an intimate hotel (chateau) to celebrate the vistas. The Township accommodated by amending the ordinance to allow it.
Again in 1998, Dave Kroupa of Peninsula Cellars wanted to sell his Old Mission Peninsula wine at the old school house because it was on a busier road than his winery location. The Township again amended the ordinance to allow it.
In 2001, after the community rejected an attempt to loosen the zoning rules for wineries in a landslide township-wide vote, the divided wineries and residents united to develop the compromise “Farm Processing” winery zoning ordinance. This new ordinance was a response to requests for a winery designation with less acreage and without a special use permit. This is another example of the wineries, the community, and the Township coming together to loosen the ordinance to meet the wineries’ requests.
Yet again, in 2004, wineries wanted to host local organizations and educational seminars, and the Township accommodated. Now WOMP claims this accommodation is unconstitutional.
WOMP claims that the 1.25 tons of grape production per guest required to establish the maximum guest count for allowed events is arbitrary, but wine industry member Jim Krupka made that proposal in 2004, and the Township allowed it.
WOMP says that the maximum event size (111 people) for a winery-chateau is arbitrary because the Township based it on the capacity of the Chateau Chantal dining room, the first winery-chateau on Old Mission and the one that petitioned the Township to allow winery-chateau events. It’s not arbitrary, and it’s another example of the Township accommodating a winery’s specific requests.
WOMP laments that Peninsula Cellars can sell logoed bumper stickers but 2 Lads cannot. These rules are not arbitrary – they were adopted at different times, in response to different requests, and apply to different types of wineries. They reflect the way this community has again and again met the wineries’ evolving desires by tailoring the ordinance to their specific requests.
And let’s get to reality: WOMP didn’t sue the Township over who can sell bumper stickers; WOMP sued because they want restaurants, venues, and events of all kinds.
The ordinance may be imperfect, but it also reflects the people and the process that developed it: winery leaders, community members, and citizen-elected township officials, who all sat down together to help the wineries succeed. Over and over for decades, this community met at a table and crafted careful compromises to help wineries while respecting and protecting their neighbors. The wineries’ demands evolved, and so did citizen concerns.
WOMP alleges that the wineries have been trying since 2008 to change these long-established portions of the ordinance. Maybe it’s taken twelve years and counting because the wineries’ demands undermine what this community so dearly values and has worked so hard to protect. And just because the wineries have been fighting for the wrong things for a long time doesn’t suddenly make them right.
The Township developed a community process in October to address WOMP’s requests and reserved three seats at the table for WOMP representatives. Yet no one from WOMP has participated. Once again, WOMP’s actions speak louder than its words.
Like all of the times this community has done so before, WOMP’s neighbors are meeting at the Township table, pens and paper in hand, ready to work with the wineries yet again to help them succeed. But this process will only work if WOMP first acknowledges that the community has legitimate interests and that these ordinances impact everyone on this unique narrow peninsula.
Board of Directors
Protect the Peninsula, Inc.