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Peninsula Township rejects settlement with wineries

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Max Copeland/Interlochen Public Radio
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Inside St. Joseph’s Church on Center Road where the Peninsula Township board heard public comment regarding the wineries' lawsuit.

The Peninsula Township board voted Wednesday night to reject a settlement proposal from a group of wineries located on Old Mission Peninsula.

Eleven wineries filed a lawsuit last year against the township alleging some of its zoning ordinances violate their constitutional rights and state laws. They objected to rules that limit their ability to serve food and host events among other things.

During two hours of public comment Wednesday night, many homeowners said they were concerned about the extra traffic that could result from more lenient regulations.

John Wunsch sits on the board of Protect the Peninsula, a group of homeowners that are against changes to the rules.

He said he’s opposed to settling the lawsuit out of court because the discussion was not public.

“I think a good resolution is possible, but it’s very difficult when it’s being done through litigation as opposed to a public process,” Wunsch said.

Some farmers spoke out in favor of the wineries position, saying it is hard to make money in agriculture.

Mark Santucci has owned a farm for 35 years and seen Old Mission Peninsula change from an agricultural community to a place with more wealthy retirees.

“There is a symbiotic relationship between the farmers and the wineries,” Santucci said. “I see the future of this peninsula, whether some of us want it to be or not, if you want to maintain the farms, there has to be agro-tourism as part of the farming operations.”

The trial is set for August 16, 2022.