Winery Lawsuit – A Fight For The Soul of Our Peninsula

All of the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula have banded together, launching a lawsuit in federal court to negate our Township’s winery ordinances.  Their action threatens to ultimately drive true agriculture off of the peninsula, disrupt the quiet and safety of neighborhoods, and lead to proliferation of event centers and restaurants/bars throughout our community.  On top of that,  they are demanding over 130 million dollars in monetary damages. If they win, residents will be required to pay this amount. It is an average of over $40,000 per property owner! Determine what you might owe here.

Because the township’s original attorney put up a deficient defense, and the township gets no redo, Protect The Peninsula is left to defend this case in court. Donate to support that defense

There is more than just monetary damages at stake. Here, in part, is what the wineries demand:

  • hosting of large commercial events, such as business conventions, weddings, and bachelorette parties
  • full alcohol service (not just wine) 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.

If the wineries prevail in their lawsuit, the agricultural character of Peninsula Township, so prized by residents, will will be indelibly changed by:

  • Conversion of farms into full scale bars, restaurants, event centers, and music venues.
  • Large social events on agriculture lands, often near residences, until as late as 2:00am
  • Elimination of traditional farming – land will be valued as for its commercial potential, becoming too expensive for the next generation of  farmers
  • Huge impacts on noise, traffic volume, and road safety

The wineries have also made it clear that they have an even more frightening vision than this. Shortly after filing their lawsuit, the wineries submitted additional demands in the form of a new winery ordinance amendment that they propose.

That proposed ordinance amendment allows for:

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

Under their proposal, if a mere 5% of the 9,200 agriculturally-zoned acres in Peninsula Township took advantage of the 5 acre commercial use in the wineries’ plan, there could 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.

Our Township’s ordinances guide land use and set the balance between residential, agricultural, and commercial activities. With this lawsuit, the wineries seek to undo over 30 years of careful zoning that maintains that balance, and dramatically raise our taxes to pay their outrageous legal damages claims, enriching themselves on the backs of township residents who have supported them.

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

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. Zoning regulations, originally supported and substantially crafted by wineries, were put into place to ensure wineries would operate harmoniously with residents.  PTP is working hard in court to defend these plans and the careful balance we all helped develop — Click here to help us support your rights!

Lawsuit court filings can be found here.




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