By John Burton
LITTLE SILVER – The latest round for the controversial Seven Bridges Winery is slated for Tuesday evening, as winery representatives – and presumably interested local residents and elected officials – and lawyers will appear again before the Monmouth County Agriculture Development Board.
When the county board last heard the proposal for the approximately 15 acres on Seven Bridges Road in October, the board voted to support the contention of its owner, Richard DeBlasi, that the site qualified as an income earning agricultural business, under the state’s Right to Farm Act.
That decision would seem to pave the way for DeBlasi to move forward with his plan to establish a winery, tasting room and small retail operation on his property, which he has been using as a vineyard for many years and has had a farmland tax assessment.
Officials from the state Agriculture Development Committee disagreed with the county board attorney’s interpretation of the statute who determined that DeBlasi did not have to provide documentation showing the site produced income. The board attorney contended the longstanding farm assessment status was sufficient. The state committee’s attorney contended that was contrary to a provision in the Right to Farm Act.
The state committee did not overturn the county board’s decision, leaving it up to the county to make any changes to its interpretation.
The county board is scheduled to discuss the matter at its 7:30 public meeting in the county Planning Board conference room in the county Hall of Records Annex, 1 E. Main St., Freehold.
In October, the county board’s ruling was made over the objections of area residents and the Little Silver Borough Council which argued the area is zoned for residential use and a winery would negatively impact the surrounding area with noise and traffic.
Borough officials also have maintained the decision about whether the use should be permitted is better left to local authorities rather than the county and state.