Protect The Peninsula’s History

In 1979, a group of passionate individuals from both the farming and residential communities of Old Mission Peninsula joined forces to create Protect the Peninsula (PTP). For nearly a decade, PTP engaged in organized opposition to a development project that took three referendum votes by the full citizenry, and a court battle with the township government of the time. PTP and the community prevailed.

In 1988, PTP formally incorporated as a Michigan Nonprofit. PTP has continuously served the residents of Old Mission by:

  • Gathering and disseminating information about township issues;
  • Identifying and clarifying the values and concerns of residents;
  • Encouraging participation by residents in government functions;
  • Promoting land use practices that are in keeping with the longstanding agricultural and rural-residential character of this community and this precious body of land.

Over the course of these 40-plus years, PTP representatives have attended over 1,200 meetings of the township board, planning commission, and the zoning board of appeals. In the process, many thousands of hours have been donated.

This peninsula that we call home has benefitted from PTP efforts large and small — from providing input about emerging issues at township meetings to organizing citizens to apply pressure to their elected and appointed representatives, or even initiating litigation and forcing ballot measures.

Highlights of PTP’s contributions include:

  • Opposition to a 1000-acre housing complex with commercial and golf operations. PTP organized in 1979 when multiple developers pursued a 1000-acre housing complex with commercial and golf operations on land near the present Bluffs Subdivision. PTP ran two successive successful referendums against these development proposals, which would have forever altered the serene character of the Township. In 1988, the township passed a version of the development that could not be stopped by referendum. PTP had no recourse but to sue the township. PTP won that lawsuit against the Township on behalf of the community, but returned all the damages it was awarded to the Township. The outcome was a massive victory for the community.
  • Purchase of Development Rights. In the mid-1990s, a current PTP Board Member led a citizen group that included many PTP members and was instrumental in crafting the visionary Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) ordinance and the millage campaign to secure its funding. It was a monumental accomplishment to convince people to tax themselves to secure the necessary funding to preserve thousands of acres of agricultural land. Peninsula Township’s PDR Program was the first in Michigan and is recognized as a national model. PTP was a proponent of the PDR concept and millage. PDR was originally passed for a period of 15 years, then amended by voters in 2002 to increase and extend the millage through 2022 after a second campaign led by a current PTP Board Member and others.
  • First Winery Ordinance. When wineries first opened on the Peninsula in 1999, the owners saw themselves as farmers preserving the rural and agricultural use of land. But over time, their perception of community spirit and engagement changed. In 1998, Chateau Chantal filed suit against the Township in seeking modifications of its SUP to allow convention and banquet type functions, overnight guest accommodation, a swimming pool, expanded warehouse facilities and parking. PTP sought and was granted the right to intervene in this litigation, and in late 1998, a satisfactory resolution for the community was reached: The Township was ordered to establish clear standards for the small plates that constituted the food service permitted with wine tastings.
  • Wineries Proposed Amendment 128 abc. A year after the Chateau Chantal litigation, other wineries sought changes known as Amendments 128 abc, which if adopted, would have allowed expanded winery operations, wine processing buildings, public wine tasting buildings, retailing, packaged foods, and commercial products on a 15-acre parcel, with only five acres in actual vineyards and no guarantee of locally sourced grapes. These Amendments were less intense than Wineries’ of Old Mission Peninsula (WOMP)’s 2020 demands. Amendment 128 was passed by a vote of 3-2 by the Township board over the objections of citizens, PTP, as well as the farmers already enrolled in the PDR Program. Township residents, supported by PTP, successfully filed a petition for a referendum. That referendum was stalled by litigation filed by one of the wineries under the guise of WOMP’s predecessor, The Agricultural Preservation League (APL). After APL’s defeat in court, the vote proceeded. Citizens voted to overturn the township’s Amendment 128 abc.
  • Other matters on which PTP has helped protect the Peninsula include: 
    • Worked to avoid the construction of a highly visible steel antenna cell tower at a high point on the south-end of the Township, instead achieving a more aesthetically-pleasing design that looks like a “large tree.” 
    • Supported the creation and enhancement of parks, including what’s now known as Pelizzari Natural Area.
    • Advocated for development of the popular scenic view turnout above Chateau Grand Traverse.
    • Opposed the proliferation of unregulated short-term rentals in residential districts.
    • Advocated for sensible infrastructure projects, e.g. sewer and water districts, and roadway designs.
    • Advised for appropriate subdivision design and density.
    • Promoted the single-waste hauler contract to help minimize the volume of heavy and slow-moving trucks on our roadways to avoid traffic and road degradation.
    • Administered resident surveys to secure vital information to inform and influence township priorities.
    • Participated in each master plan update.
    • Engaged in all ordinance creation and rewrites.