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
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(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.

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SUPPORT YOUR INDEPENDENT LOCAL NEWSPAPER: 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.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. A really thought provoking editorial and good points. I had hoped a compromise could have occurred. What is wrong with serving food while serving alcohol. Seems like a real good idea to me. What is wrong with amplified outdoor music as long as it is not too loud and does not go late into the evening. What is wrong with having weddings at wineries. I as a private citizen legally had my sisters wedding on our front lawn on OMP a few years back. We had food and amplified music. And we were absolutely considerate of our neighbors. Music stopped at 10pm. No complaints at all. So why cannot the wineries do the same?

  2. I have no problem with wineries serving food.
    Allowing wineries to be a wedding venue or any other type of event, I do have a problem with that!
    I live on Peninsula Drive. We have numerous wineries for the size of the Peninsula! For these wineries to become venues for weddings & various parties would add far more traffic to Peninsula Dr. Traffic is noisy & dangerous. I have noticed with the increase in wineries in the past 10 years more traffic and people speeding on Peninsula Dr.
    Many of these speeders have out of state license plates and I believe bring their disobeying speed limits with them.
    I have no problem spending my personal high tax dollars on stoping the wineries request for wedding and or parties at their places.

    • With that logic, we might as well tear down the lighthouse, restrict people from building/upgrading their lovely retirement homes, or even remove all the farming entities we have.

      The traffic is not strictly from the wineries. People want to drive out to look at the beautiful homes (like the ones on Peninsula Dr.), check out the lighthouse, and even stop by a small farm stand to buy produce and do u-pick. Support it! Farmers sure do appreciate it.

  3. Zoning. Agricultural. Special use permits first, now a lawsuit because commercial use of property no longer fits the ‘special use’ permits. Zoned agricultural and residential does not permit commercial business on agricultural properties.
    It’s all about making more money for the wineries, at the expense of residential property owners. If the wineries win their lawsuit I hope the following stipulations for any gatherings of 100+people includes:
    1. Require each winery to designate a leased parking lot off the peninsula (school/church/business) for party goers to gather and be transported via a commercial bus to and from the event. The wineries would be responsible for making arrangements for securing parking lot access, transportation arrangements and security.
    2. Wineries would be responsible for hiring security at the parking facility and at their events to limit noise, alcohol and disorderly conduct issues/complaints.
    3. Wineries would be responsible for any overtime cost/hiring of township and city police/firefighters needed during any commercially viable event.
    4. Gatherings involving 100+ people would require
    notification to township officials and authorities so township residents may be informed (potential issues regarding their property).
    5. Wineries would be responsible to hire traffic police officers to assist with traffic flow at the bottleneck at the base of the peninsula 60 minutes before and 60 minutes after any large(100+) event/gathering at any winery.
    6. Wineries required to participate is a joint entity to handle the development and distribution of necessary personnel for security, traffic control, transport services, et.al

  4. Ca ching ca ching! The legal fees keep mounting for the township again is ir worth it. The July legal bills for the winery lawsuits are listed in the August packet for the township meeting on August 8,2023 is $18,000. That doesn’t include other legal costs for other matters. We seem to be in the business of enriching one way out of the area law firm as well.

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