Winery Lawsuit - Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo

(Michael Dettmer, who serves as secretary for Protect the Peninsula, says the group appreciates the Township’s renewed leadership and resolve in the ongoing winery lawsuit. Read on for his thoughts. -jb)

Despite the wineries’ continued efforts to undo 50 years of community planning and turn Old Mission Peninsula into the Up North Napa, the Township Board is pulling out all the stops. These wineries want to become highly commercial venues and bars that capitalize on the outstanding views of the farms their neighbors spent millions protecting.

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For more than 40 years, Protect the Peninsula has led battles to protect what makes this peninsula so unique. PTP will participate in the wineries’ lawsuit as an intervener if we win our appeal that is pending in the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Our legal counsel, TJ Andrews, effectively argued our position June 9 in Cincinnati (listen here – 21-1744 Wineries of the Old Mission Pe v Township of Peninsula MI et al), and we now await its decision.

Meanwhile, we support renewed efforts by the Township Board of Trustees, under new leadership by Supervisor Isaiah Wunsch, to fight back against the wineries’ demands. As has been reported, on June 3, Federal District Court Judge Maloney issued an injunction undoing decades of community planning, long-standing zoning, and special use permit standards.

In response, new Township attorneys appealed the order to the Sixth Circuit. Then the Township requested a stay of the injunction, which would pause any weddings, late hours, and other commercialization of what is supposed to be farmland. Then on July 1, the Township asked the court to revisit the merits of its order; otherwise, they want to appeal it.

As the Township said in its filings, since 1839 this peninsula has been defined as a farming community. The Township has always treated the wineries as farmlands first, and the wineries’ lawsuit is “an end run around the orderly democratic process and an attempt to achieve via litigation what they could not accomplish at the ballot box.”

The wineries have forgotten that they were worse off before the ordinances they now selectively challenge were adopted. At their request, the ordinances were periodically revised to allow more un-agricultural activities at wineries – with some loose strings attached. It was a quid pro quo, and now the wineries are trying to cut those strings.

We are confident the federal courts will not be complicit in the wineries’ attempt to undo the plans and ordinances this community rightfully and thoughtfully adopted decades ago. These recent filings by the Township Board show new resolve to fight for what’s important to this community.

As Yogi Berra so eloquently stated, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” This battle is a long way from over, and PTP appreciates the Township’s renewed leadership and resolve.

-Michael Dettmer, Secretary of Protect the Peninsula

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