GRAPE CROP

Riesling grapes in a vineyard at Chateau Grand Traverse on Old Mission Peninsula.

MAPLETON — Claims that Peninsula Township’s ordinances violate the constitutional rights of 11 wineries and an association that represents all but one will move forward in federal court.

Judge Paul L. Maloney of U.S. District Court’s Michigan Western District recently tossed out a motion from the township to dismiss their claims. That came shortly after Wineries of the Old Mission Peninsula and the 11 wineries filed an amended complaint, making the township’s arguments against the previous ones moot, Maloney wrote in his order.

Wineries of the Old Mission Peninsula and the wineries involved argue the township’s ordinances violate their free speech, free expression, exercise of religion and association rights, according to the amended complaint. They also assert the ordinances discriminate against and excessively burden interstate commerce, and in some cases violate state law, among other claims.

At issue are numerous restrictions ranging from the township banning weddings at any of the three business types under which the wineries operate, to limits on what type of branded merchandise some business types can sell — T-shirts, coffee cups or bumper stickers are out at farm processing facilities but logoed wine glasses are OK, for example.

Turning away weddings and other banned events has cost each winery many thousands of dollars of lost revenue, according to the complaint.

Still others mandate how much Old Mission Peninsula-grown grapes these business types can use. Farm processing facilities can sell wine but only if it’s 85 percent Peninsula-grown, according to the ordinances. Winery-chateaus can host guest events but they’re restricted to a short list of event types and 75 percent of wine sales at these events must be peninsula-grown.

Township ordinances classify plaintiffs Bonobo Winery, Bowers Harbor Vineyard and Winery, Brys Estate, Chateau Grand Traverse and Chateau Chantal as winery-chateaus; Black Star, Two Lads and Tabone wineries as farm processing facilities; and Peninsula Cellars as a remote tasting room. Chateau Chantal operates a winery-chateau on plaintiff Hawthorne Vineyards property as a joint venture, according to the complaint — all but Bonobo Winery are association members.

Those are just a few of the issues the complaint raises, which asks Maloney for a preliminary injunction that would stop the township from enforcing the ordinances, and for the court to order the township pay damages to the wineries and association.

Joseph Infante, an attorney for the association and wineries, said the amended complaint clarifies some assertions from the first one but is otherwise the same.

Township Attorney Greg Meihn, while acknowledging in a previous communication that the ordinances likely posed some issues, brushed aside the accusations that the controversy is a constitutional issue rather than a zoning one, he wrote in a recent email to township trustees.

“Further, we believe that this is a contractual agreement between the township and the wineries, whereby they were granted the 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,” he wrote.

Meihn told trustees he expects a hearing on the injunction request later in January.

 

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