Peninsula Township Lawsuit May Soon Reach A Settlement

It’s been nearly a year since 11 wineries in Old Mission Peninsula sued Peninsula Township for ‘unconstitutional’ ordinances.

“Everyone knows the U.S. Constitution is the pre-governing law in this country and it can’t be violated by, in this case, a local government,” says Attorney for the wineries, Joseph Infante of Miller Canfield Attorneys.

The lawsuit has been more than three years in the making.

In the past decade, wineries on Old Mission have been meeting with the township to eliminate ordinances that restrict them from doing business how they want. The original ordinance, written in the seventies, has not been rewritten since, though it has been amended.

“It’s been going on for three years, four years that they’ve been trying to rewrite their ordinances,” says Infante. “They wouldn’t agree to stop re-enforcing the ordinances while rewriting them – they refused. We couldn’t just wait around forever for the ordinance rewriting process to take place while my clients’ constitutional rights were being infringed upon.”

Winery

Some of the restrictions the wineries are objecting to include:  the type of events they are allowed to host, if food can be served, what types of produce can be used to make wine and types of business marketing, according to Infante. He says these ordinances violate First Amendment rights, Commerce Clause and Michigan’s alcohol laws.

“They want to be able to use all their constitutional rights and operate their businesses and be able to serve their customers,” says Infante. “Right now, they’re being hindered on what they can and cannot do.”

The township and the wineries have been in litigation for the past year. Infante says there have been 5 separate meetings and he estimates 25 hours of litigation to reach an agreement.

He says during Wednesday’s special meeting he is expecting to hear their arguments read from the lawsuit by the township’s attorney, Greg Meihn. Infante says he was not allowed to present his clients’ side, rather he was told he can present for 3 minutes like during public comment. There will be a closed session where a settlement may be reached.

“We are going to the meeting tonight fully intending for the settlement agreement to be signed this evening,” says Infante.

Meihn did not attend a scheduled meeting with 9&10 News to discuss the township’s position.

Earlier this year, Meihn provided a statement about the status of the lawsuit:

“We believe this is a contractual agreement between the Township and the wineries, whereby they were granted rights to build and operate in an agricultural district in exchange for their agreement to not only abide by the terms of the findings of facts and creation documents, but the zoning ordinance.”

If the settlement is not made in closed session, parties will begin collecting depositions to be taken to trial.

On Wednesday night at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Old Mission Peninsula, 175 people voiced their concerns over wineries being allowed to hold events.

People from both sides of the issue spoke, and each speaker received three minutes.

After a closed door discussion, Peninsula Township decided not to enter into any settlement in the lawsuit and will form a committee to figure out the issue.