Winery Lawsuit - Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
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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.

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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 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.

To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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  1. Can someone explain what the difference is between the Protect The Peninsula group and this new Friends of Old Mission Peninsula? Why are two groups undertaking seemingly the same objective?

    I’m just trying to understand, not questioning either groups existence.

  2. I recently received the postcard in the mail from this new group: friendsofoldmissuinpeninsula. So far it seems to be an unknown group with only two publicly identified members. They have no mission statement and no goals yet they want you/us to send money. They claim to be supportive of our farmers. Really? In one of their action steps they ask us to stop buying wine from OMP sources which is the same wine that is sourced from our farmers grapes. How stupid do they think we residents are? Further they offer absolutely no solutions. We already have one too many PTP groups. Just say no.

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

    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 twonship. Are we covered or not and how much is covered!

  4. Reply To Misleading Info And Falsehoods Re The Winery Lawsuit From PTP Members Et Al.

    As the late Senator Moynihan once said “everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts”. I referred people to the WOMP statement because if you dive into it, especially the other links to the court record you will find some interesting and eye opening information, some of which I refer to herein.
    John I believe you are a member of PTP please correct me if I am wrong. You need to read all the court documents before you make unsubstantiated claims such as the town board was not involved. In fact, they were every step of the way in the discussions with 2 or 3 Board members (as representatives of the entire Board) present. To claim they were not there belies the facts as stated in the court documents!
    1. PTP wrote the winery ordinance! See from the court from the township’s own attorney and I quote
    “MR. MEIHN: That’s before we ask questions. And the problem with Mr. Grant Parsons is, Number 1, he is a lawyer, so you know how we like to talk. And Number 2, he is the architect of the very ordinance we are talking about”.
    By the way Mr. Meihn is obligated to tell the truth when speaking to the court or be subject to severe penalties. So here it is in black and white, perhaps this is why PTP was so quick to urge the township to dump Mr. Meihn. Because they were uncomfortable with his peeling back the onion and exposing the truth of PTPs cozy relationship with the town board.
    By the way I urged the members who were members of PTP to state that they have a conflict of interest when discussing winery and processing ordinances. It was met with the usual stone faced stare into space and annoyance and no action on that request. How many of the current board members are members of PTP or friends or whatever iteration PTP people create. Don’t we have a right to know?
    I have argued far too long on deaf ears that PTP is the puppet master of the township. Even the new processing ordinance which is a disaster for farmers was written by PTP people on the so called Agricultural committee. So if there is any one to blame for this travesty causing all the gnashing of teeth and mailings etc it is PTP.
    2. Also from the Court documents township representatives were in on and present at discussions re the settlement offers etc. To state otherwise is a bald faced lie and John you know it.
    3. The court admitted it could not force the town to accept the settlement their fellow Board members had accepted. It was however bothered by the fact that the terms had been accepted by the town board members who were in on discussions on behalf of the Board and then turned around and voted against their own agreement. The Court therefore fined the town for wasting the time of WOMP’s lawyers and subtly the court’s time as well.
    4. Perhaps your biggest falsehood is PTP has won significant victories in the proceedings. Interesting that since the appeals court allowed them to participate in the case, PTP has lost almost all their subsequent motions. The biggest one being asking the court to reconsider their rulings and allow them to reargue the case and also asking to redepose certain witnesses.
    5. Most of the legal issues have been decided. The April hearing will deal with damages and a few other of the remaining legal issues. The briefs will be filed on the other issues and the judge will decide on those. It is my guess he will rule first on the legal issues and get to the damages rather quickly.
    6. The court has decided several of the legal issues already against the township and PTP. They will not be re-litigated. PTP and the township have not won any substantive motions on those matters. So declaring how PTP has such a great winning side is not borne out by the facts.
    6. I don’t know how much insurance the township has. But we should know that once and for all. I would like to see the letter declining insurance that was referred to in an earlier posting. Does this person have special access to documents that the town has not made public?
    7. For those who are wondering who is behind the so called Friends of the Peninsula here is info I found on the internet.
    Incorporators are:
    Dennis Arouca
    Debbie Crowe
    Rick Margraf
    Monie Peters
    Hill Harcourt
    First four are from Neahtawanta and the last one from Louisville.
    I would think their money could be better spent on some local charity instead of filing our mailboxes with false or misleading information junk mail.

    In conclusion don’t take my word or John Jacobs word, just read the court documents and you will see most of what John is saying is wrong or misleading and hot air.


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