The owners of the Seven Hills Community Center are seeking community support for an issue involving the serving of beer at their establishment that opened in June of last year.
Located at 13795 Seven Hills Road, just north of Devil’s Dive Road, the facility includes Mission Proper, a coffee shop/cafe, grab-and-go cooler and mercantile; and Old Mission Distilling, a cocktail lounge with indoor seating and an outdoor patio.
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Jay Milliken, one of the owners of Seven Hills, says they’ve obtained the necessary special use permits to operate a tavern, bar and tasting room. “We already hold a small distiller and wine making license,” he notes. “We know and operate within the township ordinance and have oversight of attorneys. We should be allowed to apply for a beer license.”
However, he says the Township’s Director of Planning and Zoning, Jenn Cram, submitted a letter to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission opposing Seven Hills’ microbrewer license application. Milliken feels that Cram is “attempting to disrupt our operations within the existing ordinance and our already approved Special Use Permit.” He says this was done without the knowledge of the township supervisor and some of the township trustees.
In a letter to Township Supervisor Isaiah Wunsch, township resident James Grove outlined several questions about the issue. He writes:
- When, if ever, did the board meet to discuss the State permit sought by Seven Hills, and was her letter the result of board-authorized action?
- Did the Board consider and fully evaluate the positive factors of Seven Hills offering lower alcohol products to the driving public that already frequent the distilling tasting room?
- From which section in the Peninsula Township Zoning Ordinance (“Ordinance”) does the Township derive authority to regulate the type of alcohol that can be served under a license issued by the State of Michigan (in other words, once approved for restaurant and tavern use, why would a local business need approval from the Township at all)?
- Ms. Cram’s letter states that the ‘approval of that Special Use Permit required that several standards be met under Section 8.1.3 of the Ordinance and is very specific due to on-site septic system capacity issues, limited parking, and adjacency to residential uses.’
Read Grove’s full letter here, in which he questions the standards outlined in Cram’s letter.
In a letter to the Old Mission Peninsula community sent to Old Mission Gazette, Milliken writes that he is seeking a call to action from the community to help them pass this hurdle with the township.
“In our belief in the power of community and its voice, we are facing challenges with the township that demand your assistance,” he writes to OMP residents. “We hold the legitimate right to apply for and secure a microbrewer beer license from the state of Michigan. What gives the township the right to control what a tavern/bar/tasting room serves on their menu? Especially one that is already approved, licensed and operating on commercially zoned property?”
He adds, “What gives an employee (not a board member, not the supervisor, not a resident) of the township the right to act on behalf of the whole community with no guardrails or approvals and oppose a local business’ right to operate within the ordinance and existing special use permit? When do we expect our planner to fulfill their role in implementing our master plan and revising our zoning ordinance, instead of intervening in permitted, licensed local business affairs?”
Milliken is asking residents to write letters to the Township expressing support for the Seven Hills Community Center and Old Mission Distilling.
“Share your positive experiences and thoughts on the value we bring to our community. Let’s join forces to communicate to the township that we deserve the opportunity to thrive! Please call for the township planner, Jenn Cram, to rescind the letter of opposition filed with the MLCC and allow us to continue with our application for our micro brewer license which is allowed under the current township ordinance, current commercial zoning and existing, approved Special Use Permit.”
For more information, contact Jay Milliken at (310) 367-0276 or email [email protected]. If you have questions for the Township Planner, contact Jenn Cram at (231) 223-7314 or email [email protected].
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