At a combined meeting of the Peninsula Township Board and Planning Commission this week, a public hearing was held on the Farm Processing Facilities Amendments, a draft of which has been in the works since earlier this year.
After the public hearing and discussion by both groups, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the Amendments to the Township Board. Following a few minor changes, the Amendments will be on the agenda for the Nov. 1 meeting of the Board, who may take action to approve them at that time.
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In a memo from Township Planner Jenn Cram that was included in the meeting packet, she notes that the primary goals for the proposed amendments are to 1) update the ordinance so that it’s legally defensible based on issues raised in the lawsuit filed by the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula (WOMP) against the Township; and 2) create an ordinance that is equitable and even-handed for all agricultural operators on the Old Mission Peninsula, including those who grow and process lavender, honeycrisp apples, cherries, grapes, other fruits and vegetables and so on.
Timeline of Events
In her memo, Jenn outlined the series of events which have led to the present day. On May 20, 2019, the Township first became aware of the wineries’ issues with zoning as it relates to winery-chateaus during a PC public hearing for Bowers Harbor Vineyards’ request for a special use permit.
Between May 2019 and March 2020, the Township Planner at that time (Randy Mielnik) worked with a Planning Commission subcommittee and local wineries to understand their issues and propose amendments to the ordinance that would work for the wineries and community as a whole. This work was paused in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
In October 2020, the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula (WOMP) filed a lawsuit against the Township.
In October 2021, the Township Board held a special informational meeting at St. Joseph Catholic Church where public comments were received relating to the WOMP lawsuit. In November 2021, the Township Board appointed a Citizens’ Agricultural Advisory Committee comprised of residents and farmers. Three seats were held for the wineries, although they did not participate.
In December 2021, the Citizens’ Ag Committee began meeting. Their work evolved from providing input to the Township Board regarding ongoing mediation in the WOMP lawsuit, to providing policy recommendations for zoning ordinance amendments related to agricultural sections of the zoning ordinance, including winery-chateaus.
In May 2022, the committee forwarded their policy recommendations to the Planning Commission for consideration, and in July 2022, a special joint study session with the Township Board and Planning Commission took place, where they discussed proposed ordinance amendments to Farm Processing Facilities and Winery-Chateaus.
A Summary of the Proposed Amendments
As outlined in Jenn’s memo, here is a summary of the proposed amendments.
The Winery-Chateau provision, Section 8.7.3(10), will be removed and replaced with two opportunities for Retail Farm Processing Facilities. However, one use that is currently allowed that will be eliminated is Guest Rooms. The opportunity to have an owner-occupied Bed and Breakfast wtihin a single-family residence to provide lodging for guests still exists within the zoning ordinance.
For the time being, the Guest Activity uses will also be removed, as they were found to be too vague by the court in the WOMP lawsuit (read all Gazette news and opinions about the winery lawsuit here). In addition, the Guest Activity uses did not apply to agricultural operations other than winery-chateaus. Future amendments to the zoning ordinance will address accessory activities that support agriculture or add value to agriculture under a new section that applies to all agricultural operations.
All other components of the uses under the current Farm Processing Facility by right and Winery-Chateau by special use permit would be permitted under the proposed amendments. The standards by which these uses would be allowed have been clarified, and amendments proposed that make them reasonable and equitable for all agricultural operations.
For more information, view Jenn’s memo and attachments here. The attachments include both clean and redlined (noting changes) copies of the proposed zoning ordinance amendments, a comparison chart of existing and proposed uses, a scaled drawing of a standard 40-acre parcel with setbacks, minutes from the Oct. 6, 2021 special information meeting, policy recommendations from the Citizens’ Agricultural Advisory Committee, and public comments.
Additional amendments to further support agriculture on the Old Mission Peninsula will be forthcoming. These include an update to the roadside stand standards to be consistent with the Right to Farm Act GAAMPS; updated signage standards for roadside stands, u-pick operations and remote tasting rooms; the creation of agritourism standards; and the creation of smaller scaled farm processing use that requires fewer than 40 acres.
Other Agenda Items
Also at this week’s meeting, the Township Board voted to move forward with new playground equipment at Bowers Harbor Park, similar to the new equipment recently installed at Haserot Beach. A mix of Township and grant funds will be used for the $52,000 project, and a community celebration will be held after the new equipment is installed.
Also at the meeting, a public hearing was held regarding the temporary moratorium on new or amended special use permits in agricultural districts. This moratorium was put in place in January 2022, while the Township was working on the new amendments noted above.
The Township Board voted to extend the moratorium through Feb. 15, 2022, to allow time to make changes to the amendments and possibly take action to approve them at the Nov. 1, 2022 Township Board meeting. If the extra time is not necessary, the Township Board has the option to rescind the moratorium at any time.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb