2016-11-24 / Front Page

Noverr charges dismissed

After more discussion
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

The owner of a controversial “wedding barn” in Elmwood Township may be especially thankful this Thanksgiving.

Earlier this year, Frank Noverr was facing two felony charges, thousands of dollars in fines, and up to two years in jail on allegations that he obstructed a police officer and an emergency medical technician from entering his property in response to a 9-1-1 call from Noverr Farm while a wedding reception was underway there.

The charges were later reduced to misdemeanors. Then, one of the charges was dropped after further investigation determined that Noverr hadn’t really blocked an ambulance.

This week in 86th District Court in Leelanau County, the one remaining misdemeanor charge against Noverr was dismissed following a status conference in the case.

In a written statement provided to the Enterprise Monday evening, Noverr and his wife Toni Tonda said they were not surprised that all the charges in the case were dismissed once all the facts became known.

“People that know me know that I would never block a patrol car or ambulance from getting to a medical emergency,” Noverr wrote. “I had absolutely nothing to hide. Unfortunately, we had a two- minute misunderstanding the night of Aug. 13” when the incident occurred.

“Over the past three months, I think everyone has come to realize there was poor communication by both parties involved,” Noverr said. “We are ready to move on and put this event behind us.”

Elmwood Township officials, however, are still considering whether to grant Noverr a permit to operate a “seasonal wine tasting room with winery associated activities” on his agriculturally zoned property off Lakeview Road in the northwestern corner of Elmwood Township.

The permit would allow him to host wedding receptions and other special events on his property on a commercial basis. Noverr has insisted that he has been complying with an agreement he reached with the township several years ago that ended “commercial” activity on his property pending his receipt of the appropriate permits. Noverr said he has received no money for the private “family” events he has been holding there since signing the agreement.

Some of Noverr’s neighbors are furious, however, and have been complaining for years about extra traffic on Lakeview Road, noise and other disturbances resulting from activities on Noverr Farm. They have hired a lawyer and organized as the Southeast Leelanau Association of Neighbors (SLAN) in an effort to resolve the neighborhood dispute. (See the story below for more information).

Regarding the charges dismissed against Noverr this week, Noverr’s attorney, Matthew Vermetten, said the case turned out much as he had expected.

“When these charges were filed, I said this was all just a colossal misunderstanding – and it was,” Vermetten said.

“But some extraordinary good may come out of this case, after all,” Vermetten added. “We’re pleased that the Leelanau County Prosecutor took the steps he did.”

Asked why the case was dismissed, Leelanau County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Hubbell responded by releasing a brief statement:

“The parties are attempting to formulate a resolution to the issue so that access to the property for emergency vehicles will not be hindered in the future,” Hubbell said in a prepared statement Tuesday morning.

“It helped that everybody took a closer look at what actually happened at Noverr Farm on Aug. 13,” Vermetten said.

By most accounts, Noverr was unaware that a guest on his property had made a 9-1-1 call after another guest had fallen ill. When Noverr drove down his driveway to investigate why a police vehicle and ambulance were entering his property, officials were temporarily blocked by Noverr as he attempted to clear up confusion over what was happening.

Emergency medical responders subsequently transported the patient to Munson Medical Center where she was treated and released.

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