Peninsula Township, WOMP, Protect the Peninsula; Vineyard netting at Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery | Jane Boursaw Photo
Vineyard netting at Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery | Jane Boursaw Photo

Earlier this week, a three-judge panel of the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati vacated the injunction against Peninsula Township’s winery ordinances that federal District Judge Paul Maloney entered in June.

Effective last week, the same appellate judges also reversed the lower court and allowed Protect the Peninsula (PTP), a citizens’ advocacy group in Peninsula Township, to intervene as a party to defend against the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula’s (WOMP) efforts to change Peninsula Township’s ordinance restrictions on wineries in the agricultural zoning district. The appellate court remanded the case to Judge Maloney to allow PTP’s participation in the lawsuit.

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Originally, PTP was denied intervention by the district court, a decision that PTP appealed to the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati. After argument on July 27, the appellate court reversed the district court, ruling PTP to be a necessary party with a right to litigate on behalf of its members and residents of Peninsula Township.

As the federal 6th Circuit Court wrote in its August 23 opinion, “PTP’s intervention changes the landscape and requires reconsideration of the district court’s partial grant of summary judgment and issuance of an injunction.” Read the August 23 opinion here.

PTP Board Member Michael Dettmer notes, “The case is now sent back to Kalamazoo. PTP and Peninsula Township are now granted the right to litigate the merits of the case. PTP looks forward to that opportunity.”

Although a federal court trial in the wineries’ case was scheduled to start last week, Judge Maloney adjourned the trial without date and set a briefing schedule for the parties to address how the case should proceed now that PTP is a party.

In the meantime, Peninsula Township’s ordinance provisions limiting winery activities remain in effect, including restrictions on wedding receptions and other events for hire, restaurants, bars, and other commercial activities the wineries seek to conduct in the Township’s agricultural zoning district.

PTP president Mark Nadolski notes, “This is what we were hoping for. This gives us a chance to work with the Township’s new legal team, headed by William Fahey, to fully defend Peninsula Township’s agricultural zoning plan.” Fahey was brought in after the Township’s prior general counsel resigned.

Dettmer adds, “The suit brought against the Township by WOMP is a fight for the very soul of Peninsula Township. The wineries are demanding operating hours until 2 a.m., the ability to host large events such as weddings, bachelorette parties, etc., outdoor amplified music, and full restaurant food service. Do we want to preserve our agricultural rural heritage or do we want to promote commercialization? Do we want every winery and farm to be an event center, music venue, and/or restaurant in the guise of ag-tourism, or do we want wineries and farms that emphasize and respect agricultural product and heritage?”

In summary…

  • On Tuesday, August 23, the federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Judge Maloney’s injunction in the Township’s appeal.
  • Effective on August 18, when the mandate issued, the federal 6th Circuit Court reversed Judge Maloney’s opinion and ordered that PTP be allowed to intervene in WOMP’s case as a full party.
  • On August 8, Judge Maloney adjourned the trial without date.
  • On August 22 and 23, Judge Maloney entered an order accepting PTP’s filings and setting a briefing schedule, and an order accepting PTP’s motion to dismiss.

Read all winery lawsuit news and opinions here.

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