(Editor’s note: At its September 13, 2022 meeting, the City Council held a public hearing on Family Orchards, LLC’s application for a waiver of the moratorium approved by the City Council on January 3, 2022 and extended through January 2023, which imposes a moratorium on any special use permit requests relating to agricultural area property While the council is working through changes in the law.
Family Orchards, LLC recently purchased the property at 15259 Smokey Hollow Road, formerly owned by Dan Fouch. They wish to pursue the winery on the property. In a letter to the City Council dated July 22, 2022, Dr. Walter Kniss, member and director of Family Orchards, LLC, stated that “The waiver request is made on the grounds that, as applied to me, it is in violation of the ordinance depriving me of due process and equal protection rights under state law.” Federal law, and therefore invalid.”
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At the September 13 meeting, town attorney Bill Fahey Fahey, Schultz, Borzic and RhodesHe stated that since the Council was in the process of drafting a new decree and would hold a public hearing on that decree at their meeting on October 11, it would not make sense to grant this waiver as it could be outdated within weeks if the new decree was adopted.
In a letter to the City Council dated September 7, 2022, the applicants’ attorney, Andrew J. Parker Harvey Law Firmstated, “The proposed new law proposes abolishing the class of land use that my client requested in the first place. Eliminating the desired use of the land will cause immediate and irreparable harm to Family Orchards, LLC.”
Read all the correspondence about this in the September 13th board package over hereAnd read on for Lou Santucci’s opinion piece on the matter… -jb)
While the Peninsula Township office seems an unlikely location for a casino, the board’s action at Monday’s meeting in September is betting our money in yet another ill-advised attempt to change the rules for a single winery applicant. At the same time, they moved to advance the proposed law change that would negatively affect people, especially farmers, who own plots of 50 acres or more, but less than 80 acres.
Their work is sure to invite more lawsuits, which in turn will reward the town’s attorney with a huge bounty. How did this dice happen?
One of the owners had come to council to obtain a waiver of the illegally enacted moratorium so he could move forward with his Mansion Use Permit (SUP) on the land he had purchased from the Fouch family. The council did not agree to his application, and therefore called for a lawsuit by this applicant or others who also sought to submit SUPs to the town planner, who refused to accept them, arguing that a suspension was in effect. This was despite the fact that not only was the moratorium illegal, but a petition to put the issue on the ballot kept enforcement of the second moratorium for 30 days.
So due to the fact that the town attorney had recognized the illegality of both moratoriums, he drafted a new resolution to bring back the illegal moratoriums, which the chairmen of the council passed immediately, perhaps again illegally in part because one of the resolutions appears to have not been. delegated.
I realize this is all baffling, but the bottom line is that with both endowments passed illegally, the current ordinances are still in effect. So, the refusal to accept the SUP was not legally justified, and thus lawsuits invited by those – and there are at least three – who have attempted to file it.
Folks, if these lawsuits are filed, you can see more than $107,000 in legal fees spent last month and possibly in the coming months while the liquor lawsuit continues. While some may not care and even cheer the board of directors to gamble with our money, I think the wisest heads should prevail here. The Board must call a private meeting and approve the applicant’s request. Furthermore, the Board should invite others to resubmit their SUP applications. Failure to do so could result in lawyers, if not applicants, paying significant damages if they are successful in filing a lawsuit. Personally, I don’t want to see that.
Finally, on another matter that may also lead to more lawsuits, the council has set a public hearing for October on rewriting the winery’s decree. This proposed law would effectively mean that no one would invest money in a winery or other farm processing facility, because it would be economically impossible to operate it. Moving from a minimum of 50 acres to a minimum of 80 acres for a large facility removes the economic value of a farmer’s property if he owns less than 80 acres.
Based on previous drafts, other provisions of the invisible proposal are discouraging the opening of a winery. Ridiculous restrictions on things like limiting outdoor seating to 50 people with no basis or analysis on how to protect the health, welfare and safety of the peninsula are just other grounds for lawsuits.
The argument was put forward that this new proposal would give farmers equality with that of wineries. This is throwing ashes in the eyes. It will give parity by making the farmers unable to use their land economically as a potential investor in the land for the winery. This is all it does.
The growers have asked for parity with the existing law that wineries already operate in, not a new law that severely restricts what can be done with your plantation processing facility. If this decree was enacted, it would do nothing for the farmer, contrary to the false statements of the town council members and peninsula protection (PTP).
I hope that a number of cultivators, real or otherwise, will appear at the meeting to express their opposition to this ill-considered proposal. And don’t be fooled that this proposal was put forward by the so-called Citizens Agricultural Committee. The cultivators on that committee opposed many ideas. Other non-farmer representatives, 50 percent of whom are PTP, had one goal in mind: to prevent more wineries from coming to the peninsula.
You may agree with their goals, but at the same time, they are actually detrimental to the farmers. It’s time for the board to sign up for Gamblers Anonymous and stop gambling with our money.