(Editor’s Note: Lou Santucci reflects on the Township’s recent article about the winery lawsuit, along with his thoughts on the Rule of Law and the mounting legal fees. Got an opinion on something related to the Old Mission Peninsula? Write it up. Send it in. -jb, [email protected])
Many of us received Peninsula Township‘s fancy glossy newsletter in the mail, replete with information on many of the goings-on in the Township. As part of that newsletter, there was a discussion on the various lawsuits the Township is facing and a more thorough discussion on the winery lawsuit. (You can also read the newsletter online here. -jb)
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Of course, it was somewhat self-serving and misleading in many aspects. Most alarming was the tone and casting of aspersions on anyone, not just the wineries, who resorts to help from the courts to resolve a dispute when the Township refuses to reach an accommodation with a citizen or business on a matter that impacts them.
Over the years, many folks have not availed themselves of the courts when faced with the legal costs associated with “going to court.” In those circumstances, the Township is counting on forcing the citizen to back down rather than pursue a legal challenge. I know of situations just like that, and I am sure there are others of which I am not aware.
I find it laughable that the Township frowns on citizens who resort to court when they constantly threaten people with fines and/or court adjudication when they feel the citizen is not bowing to their demands or interpretation of the law. The Township states that the Board does not favor using the court system or extralegal means to choose who does and does not have to follow local ordinances — unless, of course, you are the township supervisor — see the Gazette picture of the supervisor’s truck. So, I guess when it comes to looking in a mirror, they do not think their admonition applies to them.
(Editor’s Note: The vintage Wunsch truck at the corner of Center Road and Wilson Road has been removed and replaced with U-Pick signage outside the road right-of-way, per county regulations. Also, at last week’s Township Board meeting, the Board agreed to a moratorium on the farm signage ordinance for this year’s growing season, and will revisit and revise the ordinance in the future. -jb)
As a lawyer and a student of the U.S. Constitution, I want to point out that the Rule of Law the Township’s article touts in their criticism of anyone who goes to court purposely neglects to recognize the basic right of an aggrieved party to seek redress in court. The final arbiter of the law is the Court and the courts, not the Township, and the Court’s representatives are charged with ensuring that people have equal justice under the law. Furthermore, the Court functions as a guardian and interpreter of the Constitution.
Because many of the issues surrounding the winery lawsuit are based on Constitutional issues, all the gnashing of teeth and mudslinging does nothing to further the arguments against the Constitutional issues underlying the lawsuit and the potentially unconstitutional actions of our Township officials. More importantly, the right to seek redress through court action is found in the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Perhaps the writers of the Township newsletter are not schooled in the Constitution and feel they can disparage people who avail themselves of the protection of the Constitution.
With regard to an attempt to paint the wineries as bad actors, the Township neglects to point out that a few years ago, a settlement had been reached, and the Township abrogated the agreement that had been reached. The court, as you may recall, fined the Township for rejecting the settlement agreement.
So, now we find ourselves in a situation where money damages may be assessed against the Township, which it would seem, does not have insurance coverage.
For me, this issue could have been settled a long time ago. As far as the so-called Township Survey is concerned, a new survey should be done, asking:
Do you support paying a sum as high as $93,000 per household to keep the wineries from holding weddings in or at their winery or serving hot food? Have the wineries who’ve had events or served warm food drastically impacted your life?
I am on Center Road and can state that the so-called big bugaboo of traffic is caused more by traffic in and out in the morning and afternoon by residents and workmen than by winery visitors.
To date, our legal fees for this issue have probably exceeded one million dollars, and to what end? Just this month, the legal fees of our outside council were roughly $27,000 for the winery lawsuits. And June was a quiet month in court.
In addition, the Township’s lawyer seems to be involved in every single issue or meeting, and their additional legal fees for the month were roughly $36,000. Why complain about a lack of money to add toilets when we have lawyers involved in so much minutiae? I wonder what justified $12,000 in legal fees just this month on the Seven Hills Development — which, by the way, is a wonderful addition to the Peninsula.
So, let us ask in the end, is it worth all this? The newsletter written by our Township folks say yes. Your money be damned! I and many others say no. The Township owes us a fiduciary duty not to act in a manner that wastes the Township’s money. Isn’t a million dollars of our money enough?
It’s time for the Township to do some hard thinking. You are playing with all of our money, and to what end? You could have lots of toilets with a million bucks.
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 like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like 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 of course, 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 Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb