HONOR — The ongoing controversy over Homestead Township’s noise ordinance erupted into anger and blame Monday, with one official expressing fears for her safety.
“This is ugly,” said Township Treasurer Karen Mallon. “And people are afraid of what will happen to them if they come forward and complain. I call it a mob mentality. And that’s the thing that makes me most sad because that’s not who we are.”
Mallon said she has contacted law enforcement following having her car keyed after a meeting, receiving a disturbing phone call and threats on social media.
Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel said while no official report was ever made on threats against Mallon, he is aware of tension in the township.
Since Mallon is a county employee, he said, any tips or details he receives will be turned over to the Michigan State Police.
“It makes me feel pretty bad,” Mallon said. “What Paul and I have decided is, I am a scapegoat.”
Mallon and the owner of St. Ambrose Cellars, Kirk Jones, have been at odds off and on since Mallon circulated a letter about a proposed expansion of his winery in 2015.
Mallon suggested members of a Facebook group, Homestead Township Political Action Forum, have escalated the conflict.
The group, with 302 members, was created by Jones in November after he said he felt targeted by Mallon and the sound ordinance. Jones said threatening someone you disagree with is wrong.
“If that is true, I think it is appalling,” Jones said, of the reported threats. “In all the conversations I have had with anybody and everybody, nobody has expressed any indication of hostility and furthermore I wouldn’t tolerate it.”
The township meeting grew heated during the second public comment, when Paul Mallon spoke for nearly 20 minutes. He said he was representing himself and six members of a new property rights group, Citizens for Protection of Homeowner Rights and Preservation of the Homestead Township Master Plan.
“You guys don’t live there!” Paul Mallon said. “You don’t live near there, you don’t hear it every day, it doesn’t come into your —”
“Why are you pointing fingers?” someone called out.
“My point is —” Mallon continued.
“You’re 19 minutes in, dude!” said Cory Brown, a township resident who, with his wife, Bilqis Brown, own a hydro-vac cleaning service and oppose the noise ordinance.
“You guys are very juvenile,” Doreen Strang, another township business owner, told trustees. “You’re treating Homestead Township residents like we’re school kids on a field trip.”
Strang was referencing the 8 p.m. time frame of the ordinance, passed unanimously by trustees August 6, 2018, which states, in part:
“Between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., no person shall engage in conduct which produces a noise or sound which annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety or any reasonable person of normal sensitivities.”
Jones, who did not attend the meeting because he was on his way to his bee farm in Florida, has previously said the noise ordinance targets his business.
Mallon and Township Supervisor John Hancock dispute that.
Hancock acknowledged that a $125 ticket was written to Jones in October for violating the noise ordinance, but said tickets were written to other residents, too.
“Fireworks, gunshots, barking dogs, roosters crowing,” Hancock said, declining further comment citing pending litigation.
Jones is fighting the ticket, and the noise ordinance, in 85th District Court. He retained Frederick Stig-Nielsen, of Jesse L. Williams, PLLC, who argued in January the ordinance is unconstitutionally vague and violates the 14th Amendment.
The township has filed an injunction against Jones and St. Ambrose, asking to have the facility cease offering live music, Jones said.
David Glancy, of Running Wise in Traverse City, represented the township and said, “we’ll let the judge decide that,” when asked about the suit, as previously reported by the Record-Eagle.
Judge John Mead is expected to issue a written opinion sometime after Feb. 13.