Third Coast Fruit Co. (Wunsch Farms) | Jane Boursaw Photo
Third Coast Fruit Co. (Wunsch Farms); U-Pick on Wilson Road | Jane Boursaw Photo
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(At the end of the June 23, 2022 meeting of the Peninsula Township Board, Marge Achorn read the following letter into the record. With the permission of Todd and Maura Sanders, I’m publishing it here. -jb)

Peninsula Township Board,

We are writing to express our support for you and all of the commissions and committees, along with the hard-working staff at the Township office.

True leadership, something that we both have a significant amount of experience with in our professional lives, always calls for doing the right thing, not the most popular thing, and doing it regardless of who’s watching.

When in a leadership position, there is always opposition, and with that comes the loud and persistent opposing voices. These voices are usually lobbying for themselves and rarely do they reflect the greater good of all concerned. We believe, having worked with many of you directly, that you have the greater good of Peninsula Township as your primary focus. We strongly agree that the Township Board, and commissions, are NOT anti-farmers.

We know the agricultural roots run deep at the Township (and it’s certainly not limited to just the Township Board)…

• Isaiah Wunsch, chair of the Citizens’ Agricultural Advisory Committee and new Township Supervisor, is one of the larger farmers in Northwest Michigan and has been active in local, state, and federal ag policymaking for years. Isaiah and his siblings have worked with the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy to protect and purchase nearly 170 acres of previously unprotected farmland in the past decade, and they’ve planted nearly 100,000 new trees during this timeframe. Isaiah is obviously not opposed to ag in Peninsula Township.

• Becky Chown is the spouse of the executive director and founder of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy and has been active in the GTRLC’s fundraising and outreach efforts for decades. Clearly, Becky is not interested in shutting down agriculture in Peninsula Township either.

• Former Supervisor Rob Manigold is also a significant Peninsula Township fruit grower and sells grapes to many of our local wineries. To imply that he has been opposed to agriculture or legitimate winery businesses is also laughable.

We’ve put together some points for consideration from Board minutes, participation at Board meetings, and service on the Board. These points are not self-serving, they are rooted in fact.

The survey has given the Township Board insight into the desires of the tax-paying residents of the Peninsula Township – residents want low density, peace and quiet, and less traffic. Residents want less commercialization and preservation of scenic view sheds.

• The special use permit moratorium was put in place to have a necessary pause and allow the time that is needed to do the work and prevent endless frustrating rework of nonconforming uses. (Editor’s Note: The Township Board recently extended the moratorium to January 2023. -jb)

• The opposing winery owners choose to exclude themselves from the Citizens’ Ag Committee. This committee brought the diverse perspectives of diverse residents and farmers to balance the benefits and impact of agriculture across the Peninsula. Winery owners chose to undermine the community efforts.

• Many of the residents have supported farmers over and over by voting to tax themselves with a millage that allows the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program to pay farmers to relinquish their development rights. Residents take pride in being from a community that strongly supports farmers in their area. This was strongly demonstrated at the meeting at St. Joseph Catholic Church in October 2021. The current legal opinion allows commercial development on protected farmland, undermining the intent of the PDR program and stealing millions of dollars of value from residents who have participated financially in a market-based program to reduce residential and commercial buildout on the Old Mission Peninsula.

Major Todd M. Sanders and Mrs. Maura A. Sanders, USMC (ret.)

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