(OMP resident and farmer Lou Santucci read this piece into the record at the Township Board’s special meeting on June 6, 2022, during which the Board went into closed session to discuss the winery lawsuit after Judge Maloney issued his Opinion on Friday, June 3. -jb)
Like all of you have probably been doing, I’ve thought a lot about the implications of the judge’s opinion since I read it on Friday. I have the following recommendations for you.
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Put this behind you and look forward. An interlocutory appeal – and Greg [Meihn, Township Attorney] can explain that to you – is a very difficult hill to climb. Enough resources, time and god knows how much money have been spent on this.
Harking back to the meeting at St. Joe’s many months ago, I was one of the few voices calling for a compromise to settle this issue. The Township Board bowed to the loudest voices and rejected their own negotiated settlement. True leadership sometimes calls for doing the right thing, not the most popular thing.
I do not know what your lawyer said in that meeting or what he will say today, but a lawyer not only has a duty to follow his client’s wishes, but he also has a duty to advise his clients when they are wrong or when their actions may result in unintended consequences. I remember at some point, Greg said that the wineries may have had some points on the constitutional issues. He later rescinded those remarks, but he was right.
As to who his clients are, they are not just the few of you sitting up there, but all of us. He has a duty to us – as do you – to not put us in financial jeopardy because Protect the Peninsula is nagging you on, and in this case, caused you to lose big time. And it’s not just this case.
So, what I suggest is:
1. You tell us today what your exposure is in this lawsuit. In other words, what are the limits of your [insurance] policy and what will the citizens’ exposure be if your limits do not cover any monetary damages? You owe that to us as stewards of our money, both in your treasury and in our own pockets, should it come to that! You will be shirking your fiduciary and governmental responsibility to hide these facts from us.
2. You should end the SUP (Special Use Permit) moratorium, which serves no purpose today and was a tactic to frustrate those who wanted to move forward with planning for whatever.
3. The Citizens Agricultural Committee should be disbanded and their recent recommendations tossed on the burn pile. They are, for the most part, unconstitutional. In its stead, you should create a truly ag committee with just ag reps. If you want a citizens committee, as well, create one of those, too.
4. The Zoning Ordinance rewrite should be sent back to the Planning Commission to take out the offending sections of the rewrite based on the Judge’s opinion.
5. You should ensure that actions of your zoning enforcement people are reigned in and supervised by you and your lawyer. It is clear that the judge found the discretion given to them was problematic, and recent events underscore that you have people who do not follow their own ordinances. More on that at the June 14 [Township Board] meeting.
Finally, as President Lincoln said in his 2nd Inaugural address, we should come together “with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.”
Certainly, this issue pales in comparison to the Civil War, but you should heed that advice. Let’s get rid of the malice on the part of the Township, PTP and other folks.