(Longtime Old Mission Peninsula resident Brit Eaton has a few thoughts about the unique balance between the Peninsula’s rural and agricultural heritage, and how our new township planner can help us move forward. Read on… -jb)
I write this as a private citizen and not as a representative of the Citizens Agricultural Advisory Committee (CAAC); the Township appointed me after the tumultuous meeting at St Joseph’s church in October 2021, where 250+ residents attended to voice opposition to the divisive federal lawsuit against the Township by 11 wineries on the Peninsula.
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As we started, I was skeptical of the approach of focusing on rewriting the Agricultural Zoning Ordinances as a means to correct systemic, outdated application of zoning code.
At about the same time, 19 agricultural producers on the Peninsula requested parity of the special uses the wineries were being given since they were also agricultural producers. Thus, the CAAC began to address those issues, as well.
After a meeting with one of the farming representatives, I tried to wrap my head around the impact of an unknown number of additional visitor-serving sites on the Peninsula, bringing more traffic. The thought of more visitor-serving sites with the effects of the extra traffic greatly concerned fellow citizens and me. To visualize that impact, I developed a map with dots representing current visitor-serving sites and black dots representing proposed new sites (see below).
With the increasing popularity of the Peninsula and its unique balance between rural and agricultural heritage, we can only hope to maintain that balance by having well-planned and managed expansion ordinances to avoid losing that uniqueness.
A ray of hope and unity comes from the hiring of Jennifer Cram as our Township Planner. She has come out of the need to formulate new zoning ordinances that are equitable, fair, and professionally developed, and that provide parity to all agricultural operators and citizens alike.
After a very successful career in Larimer County, Colorado, doing similar agricultural zoning planning, Jenn brings expert professional guidance, a tireless work ethic, tremendous listening skills, outstanding organizational abilities, honesty and strong leadership traits. An overwhelming number of the members of the CAAC and others who’ve had the opportunity to work with her respect Jenn’s sincerity, vision and honesty.
To counter the divisive impact of the winery lawsuit on the Peninsula and bring parity to the agricultural community while respecting the citizenry’s concerns, it will require the careful crafting of a new agricultural zoning ordinance. It will require compromise, clarity of purpose, well-defined expectations, and enforceable rules understood by all interested parties. Jenn deserves our trust and support to make that happen.
If you agree, please take the time to let Jen know that you support her efforts to maintain and guide the Township’s Planning direction.
(See Jenn’s office hours and contact info on the Township website here. -jb)
– Brit Eaton