2 Lads Winery on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
2 Lads Winery | Jane Boursaw Photo
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This past Wednesday, about 20 representatives of the parties involved in the ongoing winery lawsuit, including Peninsula Township, Protect the Peninsula (PTP) and WOMP (Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula) participated in another round of settlement discussions with the Federal Magistrate in Grand Rapids. After seven hours, discussions adjourned and will continue in Traverse City on March 27.

Protect the Peninsula sent out a note detailing the proceedings from their perspective…

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Just ahead of the settlement conference, on Tuesday the Court issued rulings on several non-central issues. Some rulings benefited the wineries, and some the defendants. Several reiterated prior rulings in this case. For example, at the wineries’ urging, the Court has repeatedly ruled that the monetary damages the township might have to pay the wineries are “not relevant” to PTP. This week’s order repeated that refrain – “Plaintiffs damages are not relevant to PTP.” PTP vigorously disagrees, but this recent ruling was consistent with past rulings allowing the wineries to keep their damages calculations secret. Despite this ruling, the wineries must still prove in open court why they are entitled to a payout of over $100 million (and potentially far more) from our community.

“Also as we expected, the Court again held that the wineries’ Special Use Permits (SUPs), under which most of the wineries operate, are not contracts. PTP has always maintained, and this recent order recognizes, that these SUPs are zoning permits – permissions to do certain commercial activities otherwise unallowed on agricultural farmland. While the wineries previously argued their SUPs are “irrelevant” in this lawsuit, congruent with PTP’s position, this ruling confirmed that SUPs are indeed relevant. The ruling also recognized what PTP has repeatedly pointed out – that each winery’s SUP is different. PTP has further argued that each SUP is key to whether that winery has standing in the lawsuit and whether they were ever actually injured by zoning. This week’s order allows PTP to pursue those defenses.

While this order cleared up some pre-trial questions, there are still important unresolved arguments. What is left for another day goes to the heart of the wineries’ claims – do they have rights protected by the First Amendment to be commercial events centers? PTP will continue to defend against this farfetched theory and the wineries’ other claims aimed at undoing 50 years of careful community planning.

PTP notes that this is an active time in the lawsuit, with negotiations continuing and more rulings expected prior to the trial, which begins on April 29.

Read all winery lawsuit news and opinions on Old Mission Gazette here.

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SUPPORT YOUR INDEPENDENT LOCAL NEWSPAPER: 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. Thank you so much for your support! -Jane Boursaw, Editor/Publisher, Old Mission Gazette

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