A local family is frustrated that they aren’t being allowed to use their property as freely as other residents.

Leo and Rachelle Wines own Ponderosa Ridge Farm on Brophy Road in Oceola Township. In 2014 they held a pair of commercial weddings at their barn, and were issued a court order to cease operations until they gained the necessary approval of the township. The Wines were told they needed approvals from the health, building, and fire departments, a site plan, and a special use permit. They said they achieved the latter two, but had been given the run around and sent in circles with the department approvals. Due to financial stress, they did not continue past the site plan and have ceased commercial operations. Leo said they have had around 50 inquiries about weddings that they have had to decline because of this and that that equates to a lot of lost revenue for both them and the township. The Wines were back before the board Thursday night to answer for a family wedding they held for their daughter in September. It was revealed that the court order not only disallowed commercial business, but also social gatherings of any type. They claim that was not part of the original order and was added without their knowledge this past April. Township attorney Neal Neilsen said that was added by the Wines’ own lawyer and initialed in. Leo exclaimed to the board that he never would have agreed to not allowing social gatherings. Rachelle told WHMI they felt like they were being denied their rights that every other property owner has. She said they feel they are being discriminated against, being told they can’t hold birthday parties, barbecues, or anything at their homestead.

The Board of Trustees had sympathy, with many saying they didn’t disagree that they should be able to hold private family events, but because of the court order it becomes tricky. Supervisor Bill Bamber said they’ve always been open to reopening this case if the Wines can get approval from the necessary departments, but they’ve never been able to. The Supervisor said they have made no decision on whether or not pursue legal action against the Wines, and that he hopes they don’t have to. (MK)