Winery Lawsuit – A Fight For The Soul of Our Peninsula

Wineries have been a vibrant part of Old Mission agriculture since 1972. When wineries first opened on the Peninsula 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. Over several decades, the regulations have evolved with input from residents, winery operators, and Township government.

Currently the wineries seek to undo the regulations of our winery ordinances through a federal lawsuit. Our Township’s ordinances guide land use and set the balance between residential, agricultural, and commercial activities. The current lawsuit by wineries seeks to undo over 30 years of careful work that maintains that balance

The wineries’ lawsuit is significantly disrupting progress in key Township efforts such as preserving more farmland, completing a full update of the zoning ordinances, and timing around improvement of parks and other service improvements. Protect the Peninsula supports finding common ground through the community zoning process, but Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula’s (WOMP’s) pending federal lawsuit prevents Township leaders, community members, and interested groups from looking for common ground to support local farmers and residents.

The Wineries hired a large downstate law firm and sued Peninsula Township in Federal Court. Here, in part, is what wineries demand:

  • hosting of large commercial events, such as business conventions, weddings, and bachelorette parties
  • alcohol service from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week
  • concerts and outdoor amplified music until 2 a.m.
  • full restaurant service including catering and food trucks
  • retail sales of any merchandise, not just agricultural or wine related

Wineries are also trying to remove requirements to use a specified percentage of grapes from Peninsula Township, a current requirement that ensures wineries actually support agricultural use of land within the Township.

Shortly after filing their lawsuit, wineries submitted additional demands in the form of a proposed new winery amendment.

Those demands included:

  • up to 4 additional houses on each 5-acre agricultural plot for winery employees
  • wineries on any 5- acre agriculturally- zoned lot
  • wine tasting rooms of unlimited size

If a mere 1% of the 9,200 agriculturally-zoned acres in Peninsula Township took advantage of the 5-acre commercial use in the wineries’ plan, there would be 92 more 7 a.m. – 2 a.m. event/restaurant businesses in our township. That is an over 800% increase from the current 11 wineries on Old Mission Peninsula, and potentially an untold increase in traffic, noise and other issues.