Protect the Peninsula mailer regarding winery lawsuit | PTP Image
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(Editor’s Note: OMP resident Cindy Warner says it’s time to “take back the Peninsula.” Read on for more. And if you’ve got something to say about anything related to the Old Mission Peninsula, write it up and send it to me, [email protected]. -jb)

After spending Thanksgiving embroiled over what I received from Protect The Peninsula in my mailbox, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for us to form a group that is called “Take Back the Peninsula.”

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The scare tactic of the purported assessment that they envision we’ll all receive from the ill-fated winery lawsuit that they — Protect the Peninsula — have protracted out by at least a year by enjoining this suit, is deplorable. At the notion of an assessment, which would be for not one ounce of improvement to Old Mission Peninsula residents, I was furious. (Editor’s Note: Click the image below to enlarge it. -jb)

Can you imagine any place in America where residents have to pay an assessment because some heavy-handed township officials have decided they simply do not agree with logical business operations for wineries, thereby creating a $100-million-plus settlement against our township, simply because they would not work with these businesses and come to a logical conclusion?

As a resident of the Old Mission Peninsula for 23 years, I could not be more disgusted at the current state of affairs with our township. We are embroiled in a battle over the logical and normal business operations for wineries that would enable them to finally yield a profit on their huge investments — investments that have brought prominence and prosperity to our region and our state.

Not a single winery that I know of wants to be a bar, a restaurant, a noisy neighbor, or remain open until 2 a.m.

And yes, there was an agreed upon settlement between the township and the wineries well over a year ago, that the now ill-fated meeting at St. Joseph Catholic Church in October of 2021 undid, thanks to noisy neighbors. The settlement was logical and workable for all involved, but the noisy neighbors who want to close the door at the base of the OMP pressured the township to retract their agreement on this settlement.

It is disgusting that we cannot even trust the character and integrity of township officials who are paid with our tax dollars. These wineries simply want the right to continue to invest in their operations to make a profit, not be a hobby business.

I have watched as the likes of Brys Estate sprung out of a dilapidated farmhouse on Blue Water Road to its now 155 contiguous acres, producing award winning wines, with an experience that people coming to our area rave about, including a Secret Garden that farms the land for lavender, etc., all to be told that expanding a deck that would bring more prosperity to our region is not permitted by the township’s ordinance. Or that having a jazz quartet at sunset would somehow disturb the “character” of the Peninsula.

And shall I mention that the 155 acres owned by this winery has not taken ONE DIME of our PDR (Purchase of Development Rights) money to preserve this land. They did it the old fashioned way, with their hard earned money that they brought to the OMP. They have continued to reinvest in our Peninsula, all to be further restricted in their growth even moreso than the day they embarked on their family business endeavor.

This is one such example of the investment and prosperity that the wineries have brought to our area, but certainly not the only one. Can you just imagine what would happen if the Brys Estate family simply had enough of the draconian tactics of this township and decided to throw in the towel on running a winery? Do any of you realize how many homes could be built on 155 acres of stunning view property on Blue Water Road?

Any thoughts on how that all worked out at Peninsula Shores (formerly The 81 on East Bay), where the group from PTP protected NOTHING? Have you driven over to see the subdivision that was not going to happen because our township and PTP spent years in court to protect us?

Well, guess what? There are multimillion dollar homes there, and that lovely development generates SIGNIFICANT tax revenue to our township, all from land that sat bare with little tax base for decades. Candidly, the tax dollars alone from Peninsula Shores have likely funded this ridiculous lawsuit.

Folks, there is this thing called land use rights in America! Just because a sixth generation family farmer, not elected but appointed by another sixth generation family farmer, thinks he and the township are somehow protecting our rights on the OMP, we should all think again. (Editor’s Note: Our previous township supervisor, Rob Manigold, is a fourth generation OMP farmer, and our current township supervisor, Isaiah Wunsch, was elected to the Township Board in 2016 and appointed as supervisor by the current Township Board following Rob’s resignation in 2022. -jb)

They are destroying our peninsula completely. They are driving a wedge between our citizens because they do not understand that the word “profit” is not a dirty word, that compromise is normal in business, and that farming the land with grapes is the same as farming the land with cherries and apples.

Now comes a township planner, with what appears to be clear direction to further restrict how we use our land, and we have yet more insanity coming from our township offices. I am done with this. Completely done.

While I felt years ago that simply selling my family home and moving was the best resolve, I no longer feel that is the right path. The right path is that we must Take Back Our Peninsula. We must remove these appointed, not elected officials, settle this lawsuit via compromise, and stop the bleeding.

And once and for all, tell Protect the Peninsula that they have protected us from nothing and no one, and that they may want to find a place to live in America where they restrict land use to that which they desire, not what is permitted by law. (Editor’s Note: See PTP’s website for more information on their history. -jb)

We are not going to be the butt of state and federal jokes for the unconstitutional attempts at restricting land use on the OMP. We live in the United States of America where land use cannot be determined by township officials who simply want a handful of family farmers to profit, namely from our PDR taxes that have ingratiated far too few on OMP, including the township supervisor’s family. (Editor’s Note: For more on the PDR program, click here, and to view the township’s zoning ordinance, click here. -jb)

It is time, folks. It is time to say no more. It is also time to stop antagonizing well meaning farmers of all kinds on the OMP, be it cherries, apples or grapes. We all know that stress has negative consequences, and I can only imagine how stressful farming must be, let alone being chased around by township officials for merely trying to create a prosperous business.

In fact, I can only imagine the stress that Walter Brys endured in being attacked for creating something so profoundly beautiful in his family business, so much so that it likely led to his untimely demise this summer. I am one of those that carried his casket and laid him to rest on none other than the OMP, where he proudly created a business that his entire family came home to run.

It is time, folks. It is time to remove the stress and insanity from all that is going on here on the OMP. It is time to learn how to compromise, learn to work together to ensure the success of these family businesses, and stop fighting. Who is ready to turn the page? Let’s get on with it.

-Cindy Warner, resident of the Old Mission Peninsula

Also Read…

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.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our 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. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever. Thank you so much for your support! -Jane Boursaw, Editor/Publisher, Old Mission Gazette

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Very well said. In total agreement. I have my own story of working to improve property only to be disallowed by the township planner. And I have to pay the township so they can refute my attorney’s legal opinion. Ridiculous! Thank you.

  2. Thank you for saying what I believe the majority of township citizens believe.

    If you look at the several groups supporting the OMP board they are a very small in number and they are pushing their positions on all of us.
    Better yet, we citizens get to pick up the bill when they and the board lose the court case.
    How can such a small group drive the township into financial ruin?
    Why does the board not put up a simple question on the next ballot, “ do you support the township board concerning the lawsuit with the wineries?”
    Let’s find out if our township board is representing the citizens of OMP or a very small group of individuals.
    Makes a good case why townships are not needed in Michigan.
    Sincerely
    Kent Rabish

  3. anyone wanting to know facts about the winery lawsuit should see the latest posted on the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula website.

    https://www.ompwinetrail.com/news/lawsuit-info/

    It makes several salient points. For one it seems that the township indeed has insurance coverage for their unconstitutional action. Shouldn’t we know before the so called Friends send out misleading mailers.
    here is the posting by WOMP. I do not see anything here that is inaccurate. I think it’s high time that we get a straight answer from the township. Are we covered or not and how much is covered!

  4. Well said Cindy!!

    This lawsuit defense is ridiculous. The wineries are great for OMP.. I’d love to see them continue to invest in the beautiful buildings and grounds. I’d love to see them earn profit and pay a fair amount of taxes to support the township services and infrastructure. Tourism is not a bad thing for OMP and its residents.

  5. Thanks Cindy
    Negotiation is the key to progress in matters where we disagree.. not litigation.
    I would hope that its no to late!
    I agree with a survey or vote as to the direction in which the township proceeds as that would show the voice of the people.

  6. I guess my question is: what were the state and federal laws when the wineries signed on to start their businesses? While I can understand the desire to renegotiate terms of their agreements moving forward based on current zoning practices and state/federal law, it does seem disingenuous to try to sue for damages based on prevailing state/federal law at the time the contracts were signed — which was quite a few years ago in many cases. Perhaps state/federal laws were the same then as they are now?
    If not, and the courts rule in the wineries’ favor, it could have a huge impact on many business contracts signed in Michigan past and present…with the legal implications of this lawsuit reaching far beyond the OMP.

    • This isn’t about state and federal laws. It’s about local ordinances which were written as needed as apposed to with an eye to the future. Many of the wineries are therefore operating under different local ordinances.

  7. Very well stated Cindy. I believe Protect the Peninsula is what all desire, but the “protection” we are experiencing is now a “taking” that is over reaching, out of balance, impractical and disingenious. We are fortunate to have our beautiful peninsula dotted with vineyards as opposed to more building. There will be consequences for what has happened (and what hasn’t happened!) and I am looking forward to supporting those candidates that will Protect our Peninsula with what is fair, reasonable, creative and forward thinking.

  8. Profit is not a dirty word but I don’t know anyone who likes that other word, traffic. If/when you “take back the Peninsula” and add blatantly commercial uses in the agriculture zone, what will be your solutions for managing the narrow roads and the bottleneck at the base? Would you propose to widen Peninsula Dr., East Shore, Bluff and Center?

    • Ginny, firstly every problem has a solution. Let’s start there. Throwing a problem on the table as if it’s a barrier is not how this will get fixed. There are multiple ways to reduce traffic…firstly, a hop on hop off trolly up and down the peninsula would help a ton. Rerouting traffic is another way. There are several options to do this that are viable today. Let me also say that we as a peninsula have done our fair share of adding traffic issues via large scale events, a bigger boat launch and various other means. The traffic issue is the result of living where others want to roam. We are blessed but others want to see it too! We will never stop others from experiencing the beauty of OMP that we enjoy, but there are endless solutions that will help!

    • The hop on hop off are used in many rural wine regions to alleviate traffic. You and other opponents have stated traffic from this wineries are a problem. This is a solution. Here is an example: https://290wineshuttle.com/ so no it’s not just for a downtown area. We have two huge parking lots at the base of OMP at NMC and the high school that sit vacant all summer at the height of the traffic. Why? In addition I personally have 4 routes in and 4 routes out to my home which is 16 miles out and past you. There are options Ginny! Let’s get on with the options that we have been talking about and doing nothing for the entire 23 years I’ve lived on OMP.

      • The wine country of Fredericksburg Tx sure is a lot different than our skinny little peninsula. They have San Antonio and Austin (both larger than Detroit) within a couple hours away which likely gives them enough users to make hop-on, hop-off shuttles that are available every 15 minutes work on Saturdays plus a few hours on Fridays and Sundays. I do appreciate that some of the wine trailers have drivers (buses, vans, limos. etc.) because they’re sober and the drivers know where they’re going.

        We do have Peninsula Dr., Center Rd., S. Bluff, Center Rd. and E. Shore that can carry more traffic, might be widened and could eventually have some lights so that residents can get out of their subdivisions (like those folks in Homestead and Port of Old Mission taking their lives in there hands to turn left). Once we reach the south end, the access points to the city (Garfield & Front, Peninsula & Front, Milliken & Front, East Bay Blvd & Munson Ave.) are already difficult. Compounding the volume of traffic by commercializing the agricultural zone in the township will make it much more difficult. Please don’t ignore the peninsula’s geography and roadway limitations.

        To answer your question about density, 155 acres at 5 acre agricultural zoning would be 31 homes.

        • What seems to be left out of this discussion is the true source of traffic. Urbanisation. I drove to TC at 7 am one morning last summer, 70 vehicles heading north to build or maintain houses. Traffic is NOT a problem attributable to wineries.

  9. There’s no denying we have more traffic than ever before. Our population increased by 681 people in the last 10 years, 38% of us are over 65, the average household is two people and the median house is worth more than $500,000. So yes, there’s construction and service traffic and will likely be more service traffic as our population ages. Thanks to the tax payers (local, state and national) and private donors that we have almost 6,500 acres of land that won’t ever have houses on it due to Purchase of Development Rights contracts. The residential traffic is a factor in the carrying capacity of the roadway infrastructure but more restaurants and commercial venues for events (weddings, parties, etc) would certainly have an impact, especially summer weekends.

    I’ve personally never thought winery owners should be treated better than other farmers (like the ones with generations of dirt under their fingernails). There are a lot of barns out here that were built to house horses, cows, pigs and chickens that could become event centers through adaptive reuse.

    My Dad used to say, “Gin, you can’t stop progress.” My answer was, “Let’s define progress.”

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