10/8 – Questions Arise Over County Board’s OK of Little Silver Winery

October 8, 2013
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By John Burton

LITTLE SILVER — A provision in the Monmouth County agricultural board’s decision permitting a proposed Seven Bridges Road winery doesn’t pass state muster.

The state Agriculture Development Committee late last week determined that a portion of the county’s ruling for the winery is not an accurate interpretation of the state’s Right To Farm Act.

During its meeting last Wednesday, the county Agriculture Development Board’s attorney, Christopher Beekman, determined it was not necessary for Seven Bridges Winery and its owner, Richard DeBlasi, to provide documentation that approximately 15 acres of his Seven Bridges Road property has been a income producing actual farm and that the farm’s longstanding farm tax assessment was sufficient.

Opponents, which include the Little Silver Borough Council and some area residents, have argued that documentation is required under the state statute.

The county board voted overwhelmingly last Wednesday that the project met the criteria of the state’s Right To Farm Act and could proceed to the next step. That would be submitting a site plan for the county planning board’s approval.

The state board’s legal counsel disagreed with the county board’s attorney’s assessment of that provision, said Hope Gruzlovic, a spokesperson for the state committee.

The State Agriculture Development Committee, however, is not overturning the county’s decision, Gruzlovic said, but has simply “reached out to the board’s counsel to clear up any misunderstanding.

“It’s up to the county board as to how they proceed,” at this point, she said.

This morning Beekman said, “It’s a bit too early,” to say what the county board’s next step will be.

Should the objectors seek to appeal the county’s decision, it would be the state agriculture committee that would hear it, Gruzlovic said.

Following the county’s vote last week, Mayor Robert Neff Jr. and the lawyer representing some residents said they would consider taking that step.


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