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In the latest winery lawsuit news, Judge Paul Maloney issued several rulings last week. The rulings are part of an “Opinion and Order Resolving Preemption Summary Judgment Motions” which Maloney, a federal judge on the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, issued on Feb. 29, 2024.

The winery lawsuit stems back to October 2020, when a group of Old Mission Peninsula wineries filed suit against the Township; the citizen advocacy group Protect the Peninsula was later granted the right to intervene as a defendent. The wineries claimed that the restrictions imposed by the Township’s zoning ordinance cost the wineries hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

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As noted in Maloney’s Opinion:

Some of the restrictions in the Peninsula Township Zoning Ordinance (PTZO) that Plaintiffs challenge include regulations of advertising, regulations of bar and restaurant operations, vagueness of the term ‘Guest Activity,’ limitations on hours of operation, prohibition of hosting events such as weddings and family reunions, prohibition of amplified music, and regulations requiring the Wineries to use a certain percentage of Old Mission Peninsula-grown grapes and ingredients in producing wine, among numerous other restrictions. The PTZO has sparked controversy among the parties for years.”

The question of governance (i.e. who controls what) is a crucial part of the lawsuit and includes Michigan law (including the Michigan Liquor Control Commission) vs. Township zoning ordinance regulations.

As Maloney notes in the Opinion, “A license from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission is required to operate a winery in Michigan. The Michigan Liquor Control Code (MLCC) governs winery operations and allows wineries to have certain licenses and permits. Each Plaintiff possesses multiple permits and at least one license.”

But the Opinion also notes that the Township’s zoning ordinance may add limitations or restrictions to the rights granted in the MLCC; however, the ordinance may not contain an absolute prohibition on what the MLCC permits. “In other words, restrictions and limitations are permissible, but outright prohibitions (on permitted activities under the MLCC) are not.”

Here are some of the key points in the Opinion, which you can read in full here.

Hours of Operation. “Hours of operation for Guest Activity Uses shall be determined by the Town Board, but no later than 9:30 p.m. daily.”

Music. Because the MLCC allows amplified music, the Township may not prohibit it. However, the Township may regulate the level of amplified music.

From the Opinion: “No amplified instrumental music is allowed, however amplified voice and background music is allowed, provided the amplification level is no greater than normal conversation at the edge of the area designated within the building for guest purposes.”

Catering. “Kitchen facilities may be used for on-site food service related to Guest Activity Uses but not for off-site catering.”

The trial is set for the end of April, although possible mediation prior to the trial may result in a pre-trial settlement. Read all winery lawsuit news and opinions 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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