(Editor’s Note: OMP resident Lou Santucci has a few thoughts on issues pertaining to Peninsula Township, including the winery lawsuits, Charter Township, the new Farm Processing Ordinance, the pile of rubble on Center Road, and the Seven Hills community center’s request to serve beer. Read on for his thoughts. And if you’ve got something to say about the winery lawsuit or anything related to the Old Mission Peninsula, write it up and send it to me, [email protected]. -jb)
Does the recent settlement of one of the many lawsuits the Township brought on itself bode well for the future going forward? One can only hope.
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Why did it take a lawsuit for Township officials to correct a threat to disallow Mari Vineyards to proceed with plans under it’s existing chateau permit to build a few guest quarters on their land? Wiser heads prevailed in this situation.
We are still facing two other lawsuits brought on by Township action against the wineries. In one pending case, a new winery sought approval under the old ordinance — which, in my opinion, was wrongly stopped by the Planner’s refusal to accept their application while an illegally passed moratorium was in place.
The other is the ongoing WOMP lawsuit. These costly and unnecessary lawsuits could have been avoided if the Township had a more sensible approach to working with — rather than against — the wineries. How much time and energy could have been saved?
The handwriting seems to be on the wall with regard to the WOMP lawsuit, and it doesn’t bode well. Protect the Peninsula (PTP) and its many iterations have not served us well by beating the drum against common sense solutions.
Turning away from the winery issues, we have at least four other issues where common sense should prevail.
The owners of the Seven Hills community center are seeking the already state approved right to serve beer. In this case, it seems that the Township Planner took unilateral action and wrote a letter to the state authority objecting to the final granting of a license to serve beer.
It belies common sense to say that Seven Hills should be denied the right to serve beer when they already have approval for wine and spirits. As Jay Milliken, one of the proprietors of Seven Hills, put it, isn’t it better to offer beer as an alternative to hard liquor and wine for those who prefer it?
Every bar or tavern in Michigan and on the Old Mission Peninsula has this right. Shouldn’t Seven Hills? Peninsula Township should withdraw that objection.
The Pile of Rubble on Center Road
(Editor’s Note: This pertains to the old Kroupa’s processing plant on Center Road just north of Peninsula Cellars near the intersection of Carroll Road. -jb)
Here again, it seems the Planner has her own ideas on how the owner of that property should remove the pile. This owner wants to remove it using up-to-date crushing technology. Why is it taking so long to let him clean up this site?
One rather odd approach to this matter is the Planner’s own interpretation that removing this rubble qualifies as “industrial” activity. If you look at the Peninsula Township Zoning Ordinance, there is no definition of industrial activity.
More importantly, this is not a business activity. It is a cleanup and should be treated as such, just like pouring cement to make a parking lot is not an industrial business activity. This pile could and should have been gone without the owner having to hire a lawyer.
Switching to a Charter Township
The idea of switching Peninsula Township to a charter township is a bad idea that should not see the light of day. One reason alone stands out among the many of why a charter township is not for us — TAXES.
General Law townships such as Peninsula Township may levy up to 1 mill without a vote of the people. Charter townships may levy up to 5 mills without a vote of the people.
Many on the Township Board think we need more money to expand their bureaucracy. They claim to be overworked and need more people. Maybe going back to a five-day work week would solve that problem. Or maybe not passing new ordinances to create more unnecessary review and enforcement duties would alleviate the need for more people.
The New Farm Processing Ordinance
While some would cheer on the new Farm Processing Ordinance as ensuring there are no new wineries, it’s been pointed out by our farmers that it actually hurts them. It was written in such a way that it closes out opportunities for farmers to pivot from money-losing crops like tart cherries and apples to grapes. The new ordinance should be rescinded.
These are just four of the myriad of issues that cry out for common sense approaches. The upcoming year of 2024 is an election year. Every candidate — incumbent or otherwise — should be required to answer the following question: Will you bring a common sense approach with you? Or leave it at the door and take the easy route — say no and hope the issue goes away?
Unfortunately, that approach could once again result in high costs to us all. Let’s not make 2024 a repeat of 2023.
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