2017-01-26 / Local News

Noverr again goes to court for wedding barn

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

NOVERR NOVERR Elmwood Township officials and the owner of a controversial “wedding barn” will be meeting again in court in the months ahead to continue a long-running dispute over whether “winery related activities” should be allowed in the barn.

Property owner Frank Noverr has been battling township officials and many of his neighbors in the northwestern corner of Elmwood Township for years now over the “special events” he holds on his Noverr Farm property on a 20-acre parcel off Lakeview Road.

Neighbors have been complaining about the volume of both vehicular traffic on Lakeview Road and noise emanating from Noverr’s property during special events. Two years ago, the township and Noverr agreed he would not hold any “commercial” activities on his property until he received the appropriate permits.

When he applied for the permits last year, however, his application was denied, and he appealed to the township Zoning Board of Appeals. When the ZBA also denied his request, Noverr sued the township in 13th Circuit Court – and prevailed against the township.

So, this year, Noverr reapplied to the Township Planning Commission for a conditional land use permit to operate a “seasonal wine tasting room with winery associated activities” on his property. The permit would make it legal for Noverr to hold weddings, receptions and other special events on his property on a commercial basis.

In the meantime, Noverr continued to host large gatherings on his property, but said they were only for friends and family and were not being done on a commercial basis. During a wedding reception held at Noverr Farm on Aug. 13, 2016, however, Noverr found himself in trouble when somebody made a 9-1-1 call from his property because a guest there was having a medical problem.

When a sheriff’s deputy and an Elmwood Township ambulance responded to the call, they were briefly delayed by Noverr who was apparently not aware that a 9-1-1 call had been made. The Leelanau County Prosecutor’s Office subsequently charged Noverr with two felony counts of obstructing a police officer and an emergency medical technician.

Upon further investigation, however, those charges were reduced to misdemeanors, and one of them was dropped due to a lack of evidence. Ultimately, both charges were dropped and, in November, the county’s case against Noverr was dismissed entirely.

Meanwhile, Elmwood Township planners considered Noverr’s reapplication for a conditional land use permit to conduct “winery related activities” including weddings on his property. Last month, however, the Elmwood Township Planning Commission issued a “Decision and Order” denying Noverr’s conditional land use application.

The recourse for Noverr on a portion of the Planning Commission’s decision was to file an appeal in 13th Circuit Court – which was done on Jan. 12. According to Noverr’s attorney, Matthew Vermetten, another element of Noverr’s application to the Planning Commission will be appealed to the township Zoning Board of Appeals.

This is the second time Noverr has had to go to the ZBA and, ultimately, to civil court over a permit to host activities in his barn.

Township zoning administrator Sara Kopriva, who was named individually as a defendant in Noverr’s first suit against the township last year, said a ZBA meeting has been tentatively scheduled for March 1 to hear Noverr’s appeal. No date has been set for other elements of Noverr’s appeal that are to be heard in 13th Circuit Court sometime in the months ahead.

Kopriva declined to discuss the pending litigation and referred a reporter to the township’s attorney, Jim Young.

Young could not immediately be reached for comment.

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