By John Burton
LITTLE SILVER – Mayor Robert Neff Jr. and the borough council are continuing their battle, opposing the winery planned for Seven Bridges Road.
Neff said the council will appeal the Feb. 11 decision by the Monmouth County Agriculture Development Board that paved the way for Seven Bridges Winery to move forward with establishing the winery, tasting room and small retail operations at 640 Seven Bridges Road.
The agriculture board determined the winery met the criteria of a valid agricultural business under the state’s Right to Farm Act – over the objections of some area residents and the governing body.
Officials have alleged the proposed winery’s owner, Richard DeBlasi, was seeking county and state approval as a means of circumventing local control given local officials’ concern over the project. In an email on Wednesday, Neff stressed that point saying, “the issue is one of local zoning control.
“The Right to Farm Act wasn’t meant to allow a commercial farm to spring up in a residential zone,” Neff said.
The matter will be appealed to the state Agriculture Committee.
Area residents have voiced their objection to the plan, fearing a commercial endeavor in an exclusively residential area – and one that already has heavy traffic – would detrimentally impact their quality of life and property values.
Along with the borough council, three property neighbors were opposing the plan, having hired an attorney to challenge it before the county board.
The attorney, Erik Anderson of Tinton Falls, said he hasn’t reviewed the agriculture board’s decision, which was memorialized Tuesday evening. “I don’t have a determination from my clients in terms of an appeal,” he said. “but undoubtedly, there are a number of issues that are basis of an appeal.”
DeBlasi and his attorney, Patrick Accisano, were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.