West from the Hogsback on Center Road; Fall colors on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
West from the Hogsback on Center Road; Fall colors on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo

At a combined meeting of the Peninsula Township Board (TB) and Planning Commission (PC) 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 PC recommended approval of the Amendments to the TB. Following a few minor changes, the Amendments will be on the agenda for the Nov. 1 meeting of the TB, 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 PC 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 TB 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 TB 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 PC for consideration, and in July 2022, a special joint study session with the TB and PC 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 TB 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 TB 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 TB meeting. If the extra time is not necessary, the TB has the option to rescind the moratorium at any time.

Watch the live stream of the meeting below, or if it doesn’t show up in your browser, watch it on Peninsula Township’s YouTube channel here.

Also Read…

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Next article73 Photos of Fall Colors on the Old Mission Peninsula
A lifelong resident of the Old Mission Peninsula, Jane grew up on a cherry farm (Johnson Farms), married the boy next door (Tim Boursaw), and raised two kids there (Will and Marissa). Her 35-year career as a photojournalist includes bylines with the New York Times and Ladies' Home Journal, and interviews with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. But she loves writing about the OMP most of all.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Ok here is a start. All citizens should look at the you tube of the meeting. We in OMP do not govern by State of Michigan rules. We rule by made up assumptions. This was a joint meeting of the planning commission and the Twp Board. And it was a public hearing. So here is the state ordinance MCL 125.3308 sec 308. (1).

    “ Following the required public hearing under section 306, the zoning commission shall transmit a summary of comments received at the hearing and it’s proposed zoning ordinance, including any zoning maps and recommendations to the legislative body of the local government. “
    Well before the public hearing this was presented to both bodies: the planning commission and the Twp board. Well guess what a motion ( who can understand the actual motion, listen on you tube it makes no sense) was passed without following Michigan state statute. And so now the whole motion can be questioned before a court of law as it was not passed legally. We do have great leaders here on OMP but we need to get up to speed with State law that takes precedence.

  2. Great leaders? They were warned by you at the meeting before they took action that what they were about to undertake was illegal. They decided to go ahead anyway.
    So now they have to do it over to make it right. This is just one in a number of illegal steps they have taken over the summer, including a twice illegally passed moratorium. Sorry Curt but great leaders do not knowingly bypass obvious state law. This borders on malfeasance and not leadership. They are all complicit in brining expensive lawsuits on our heads.
    When will the next suit be filed because of their dismissive action regarding state laws and constitutional due process violations. One can only wonder.

  3. Greetings,
    As provided on page 33+ of the minutes here: https://www.peninsulatownship.com/uploads/1/0/4/3/10438394/10-11-22_tb_and_pc_minutes.docx.pdf
    there is information I’ve shared before with evidence back to 2008 of a request from WOMP to talk about the ordinances, and if there is no record of that from the Township, minutes from a 2011 meeting on Township letterhead outlining the meeting we did have on the topic. Something plenty of us and members of PTP have been doing for over a decade. Suggesting that the township first became aware of an issue in 2019 is misleading.
    Thanks kindly,
    Marie

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