Peninsula Township Updates: Pelizzari Expansion, New Overseer, Cellar Prosecution Appeal
The Township of Peninsula committed $200,000 this week to purchase a 15-acre parcel near the Pelizzari Nature Area – the first step in a process township leaders hope will lead to the acquisition of more of surrounding properties, eventually doubling the size of the park and protecting Pelizzari from encroaching development. This week, township administrators also appointed a new supervisor after longtime supervisor Rob Manigold resigned for health reasons and voted to appeal a recent court ruling in favor of the vineyards of the Old Mission Peninsula.
Peninsula Township trustees voted this week to use $200,000 from a fund dedicated to the Pelizzari Natural Area to purchase property north of the park for the site’s eventual expansion.
According to Dave Murphy, a member of the Peninsula Township Parks Committee, park officials have been working quietly for three years on possible property acquisitions around Pelizzari to expand the site’s boundaries. Walt and Meg Meeker own 15 acres – a parcel north of Pelizzari, but not directly adjoining the park (pictured in red outline, left) – and would “immediately like to sell and potentially donate some of the value of the property into the part of an extension of the Pelizzari Natural Area,” Murphy said.
The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC), which protects and manages Pelizzari on behalf of the township, would conduct fundraising to cover the remainder of the cost of purchasing the property. The exact purchase price is still being negotiated with the landowners, according to the GTRLC’s Director of Communications and Engagement, Jennifer Jay, who said the purchase proposal will be on the agenda of the conservation board in July or September for approval. From there, “it’s reasonable to assume that we will need two years to raise the funds to complete the project and that a fundraising campaign will be necessary,” says Jay.
Murphy told administrators this week that the purchase offers several benefits despite being disconnected from the existing Pelizzari site. On the one hand, the Meeker property has 13 development rights attached to it; when the purchase is finalized, ownership will be transferred to the township and development rights “extinguished”, Murphy said. This means that even if the property is not immediately connected to Pelizzari, it will remain protected land belonging to the municipality instead of becoming a housing estate of 13 houses. Murphy said preserving open land and limiting development was consistent with the township’s master plan and purchase of development rights (PDR) program.
Murphy said the ultimate goal, however, is for the township/GTRLC to eventually purchase parcels between Pelizzari and the Meeker property to expand the park by an additional 60 acres, doubling its current size. The expansion would eventually eliminate 35 to 40 total development rights, according to Murphy. While some homeowners “are not yet ready” to sell, Murphy said the township has “received positive reaction from enough neighbors that we believe that over time we will be able to connect the rooms to this which is now the natural area of Pelizzari”. Murphy said Peninsula Township is facing a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario and must either buy targeted properties as they become available, even if they are not immediately connected to the park, or run the risk of sellers becoming impatient and selling their property. at market value, allowing the plots to be valued. “I think moving to this one now is the wisest thing to do,” he said.
Many township residents agreed, speaking out in favor of the proposal this week. “I think it’s just a great addition (to Pelizzari),” Todd Wilson said. John Jacobs, a board member of the citizens’ group Protect the Peninsula, echoed Wilson’s comments. “There’s a lot of talk about spending in this world, but not a lot about investing,” he said. “Pelizzari’s expansion is an investment, and it will pay off for generations to come.”
Claire Herman, land protection specialist at the GTRLC, said large tracts of open land allow flora and fauna to spread and thrive and are “very important in mitigating climate change”. Noting that there is “a significant amount of development” in the area surrounding Pelizzari near the base of the Old Mission Peninsula, she called the township’s potential park a “limited resource” in need of protection. Township trustees agreed, voting unanimously — with Township Clerk Becky Chown abstaining due to a conflict of interest — to pass a resolution committing $200,000 from the Pelizzari Nature Area Fund. for the purchase of the property.
New township supervisor
Peninsula Township trustees unanimously chose a new supervisor this week after longtime supervisor Rob Manigold announced his resignation due to health reasons. “We thank (Rob) from the bottom of our hearts for his service to Peninsula Township over many decades,” Chown said, noting that Manigold is a fourth-generation farmer who has “helped preserve literally thousands of acres” on the Old Mission Peninsula. “His legacy will benefit this beloved place we all call home,” Chown said.
As there are less than two years left in Manigold’s term, the directors can appoint a replacement until the next election. The board selected administrator Isaiah Wunsch to serve as the new supervisor. “Isaiah is a sixth-generation Peninsular farmer, and I think it’s very appropriate to hand over to him and help him move us forward,” Chown said. Wunsch admits he “didn’t expect or wasn’t excited about the role” when he was first approached to take over the job from Manigold, but said he would. do their best to fill the role and represent the voters of the township. “I’m going to try to earn everyone’s respect and acceptance for this change…I know it’s going to be a tough hill to climb,” he said.
Finally, Peninsula Township administrators voted this week to appeal a recent court ruling that handed down several rulings in favor of Old Mission Peninsula Wineries (WOMP), which is suing the township over allegations that Township zoning rules are unfairly restrictive on wineries and in some cases even unconstitutional. The township council, which recently hired new law firm Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes PLC after the resignation of township attorney Greg Meihn, met behind closed doors with its new lawyer before walking out and voting in the unanimity on several motions. These included motions to file an appeal of Judge Paul Maloney’s injunction, to file a stay of the injunction, and to file a motion for reconsideration. The board also agreed to hold a special meeting on June 23 at 11:00 a.m. to discuss a WOMP settlement claim, as ordered by the court, and to hold a special court meeting on July 5 at 1:30 p.m. to participate. to a settlement hearing, which is also ordered by the court.
WOMP legal counsel Joe Infante recently said The ticker an appeal from the township could prolong the trial for a year or more. In the meantime, however, Infante noted that Peninsula Township’s cellar rules are largely unenforceable until decided otherwise.