(Lifelong Old Mission Peninsula farmer Dan Fouch says if the Township’s agricultural committee is trying to protect property on the Peninsula from further development, the recommendation made to restrict wineries is counterintuitive to that goal. Read on… – jb)
I would like to address the Agricultural Advisory Committee’s recommendations regarding Wineries/Chateaus on the Old Mission Peninsula.
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I have been a fruit grower on the Peninsula my entire life. My wife, MaryAnn, and I have been growing cherries, grapes, and apples on about 125 acres along Center Road, Smokey Hollow Road and Bluff Road. We decided to sell most of the orchards and vineyards a couple of years ago. While it was a difficult decision, we were focused on finding a buyer who would keep it in agriculture.
The main acreage lies north of Mission Hills Subdivision and south of The Cove and Peninsula Shores. When the farm went up for sale, we were approached by several potential buyers. One buyer, in particular, was a cash buyer who said in writing that he would not develop the property. However, in the purchase agreement he added a paragraph that while he would not develop the property, we could not object if another party developed it. Since he was already a major developer down state, we pulled out of the agreement.
Developing the property seemed to be the focus of most of the people who approached us. Since the property comes with all the development rights, we felt that perhaps that was inevitable. Then we were approached by a family that was already into farming, already owned vineyards, and had been looking on the Old Mission Peninsula for the right piece of property. Our property was a perfect fit for them.
While I do not deem to speak for them or have insight into their specific plans, my wife and I both have confidence that they will continue this property as an agricultural entity. They have done due diligence in studying the topography, the soil compositions, and the microclimates that exist on this property. All indications are that they will transform this into more vineyards and away from the more volatile tart cherry industry.
When they bought the farm, they purchased enough acreage to potentially build a winery according to the Township’s master plan. Suddenly, it seems that plan is changing.
My point in this letter is that if what the committee is trying to do is protect property on the Peninsula from further development, the recommendation made to restrict wineries is counterintuitive to that goal. The property the family purchased could support a winery. On the other hand, it could support 20-25 new homes.
It seems to me that supporting one winery on 80-85 acres protects the Peninsula more than seeing this farm become another subdivision that would then connect Mission Hills to this subdivision to The Cove and to Peninsula Shores.
Thank you for your consideration.
– Dan and MaryAnn Fouch