Friends of Old Mission Peninsula (“Friends”), a newly formed Michigan not-for-profit organization, has launched a grass-roots public information campaign to inform, educate and spark action against the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula (WOMP), a group of 11 wineries that sued Peninsula Township in Federal Court in 2020.
In a press release from the group, they note that WOMP seeks more than $200 million in damages, as well as new zoning laws that would give them more license to expand their businesses, including constructing large event centers. They feel zoning decisions over the last 40 years violate the U.S. Constitution, notes the press release.
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You may have received a mailing in your mailbox from the new group, whose home base can be found online at the new Friends of Old Mission Peninsula website. The site includes a free virtual calculator for taxpayers to compute how much they would owe if WOMP prevails in its lawsuit.
While the wineries are suing the Township, notes the press release, any damages awarded to the wineries would be passed onto taxpayers through a special assessment or tax increase. They note that a special assessment does not require approval from voters.
“We are concerned that most citizens are not aware of their personal financial exposure, and decided to put a calculator online that helps them figure that out,” said Dennis Arouca, a Peninsula resident and member of Friends. “The actual amount a citizen will pay depends on their property holdings, and many will pay well over $100,000. It is important to put a ‘human face’ on what it is at stake here.”
If you own property on the Old Mission Peninsula, you can determine how much of that $200 million you would be liable for by plugging in the taxable value of your land on the Friends website here.
Their FAQ page describes how the calculator works and also lists several ways taxpayers and other stakeholders can take action to let the WOMP wineries know how they feel. These include writing letters, participating in consumer boycotts of WOMP wines, or scheduling special events at non-WOMP locations, like downtown Traverse City, Leelanau County, or non-WOMP locations on the Old Mission Peninsula.
“This is about more than just immediate taxpayer pocketbooks,” says Todd Wilson, a Peninsula resident and member of Friends. “Two hundred million is 20 percent of all the taxable value property in Peninsula Township. The ‘human face’ when you transfer $200 million from citizens to WOMP businesses will likely mean radical restructuring of family budgets that could impact college or retirement plans, or even donations for local needs whether it be to a church, a Conservancy or other local nonprofits.”
He adds, “It also means that the Township will have less money available to maintain parks, beaches, the library and more.”
For more information or to volunteer with Friends of Old Mission Peninsula, visit their website here.
Read all news and opinion pieces about the winery lawsuit here.
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