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Scaled-Down Winery Proposed for Little Silver

The owner of the Seven Bridges Road vineyard would like to sell the wine that he produces on his 15-acre property along the Shrewsbury River.

All Richard DeBlasi wants to do is sell his wine and offset the approximately $200,000 it costs to grow and maintain grapes at his vineyard on Seven Bridges Road annually.

"It's a lot of money to do grapes, and this would help," DeBlasi said at the July 9 Borough Council workshop meeting.

To do so, he would like to change the zoning for the lot that would allow him to add a retail store to sell his wines and perhaps offer educational tours to the public. Right now, DeBlasi can sell the grapes and store the wine he produces in bulk but cannot sell his product to the public.

"Rick does this as a labor of love," DeBlasi's attorney, Patrick Accisano, said of his client's vineyard. "It's a great thing for Little Silver."

DeBlasi, who has owned the property at 647 Seven Bridges Road for more than 30 years, came before the council on an "informal" basis to try to get feedback on his plans that have been scaled back

"We're not talking about Mondavi Vineyards," said Accisano, of the new plans that eliminate a proposed tasting room. "We don't want a big operation."

Accisano said his client hoped to get a "non-binding impression" from council as to whether they supported the project before going forward and spending money on traffic studies and engineers.

However, the mayor and council agreed that they were unable to provide any type of guidance to DeBlasi until they were provided with a more detailed narrative of what's proposed.

According to Borough Attorney John O. Bennett, neighbors expressed concern about DeBlasi's proposal last November; in particular they were worried about the increase in traffic the winery might generate.

An attorney representing Seven Bridges Road resident and borough planning board member John Chimento attended the July 9 meeting. "(My client) has a lot of concerns about this," attorney Erik Anderson told officials at the meeting.

Paving the way for the property to become a winery would also allow DeBlasi to sell it as such in the future, which would preserve open space and dodge the possibility of it being subdivided and developed as housing.

"It's a showcase piece of property in Little Silver," said Councilman Dane Mihlon.

S Talarico July 16, 2012 at 01:28 PM
I wonder what his "farm tax" break is for growing a vineyard like that. I'm going to put a few chickens in my yard, see if I can get a farm tax break on my property taxes.
S Talarico July 16, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Oh and there isn't enough traffic in Little Silver yet? I don't refer to Branch Ave as Branch Ave anymore. I refer to it as "the highway that is Branch Ave." Long before the 7 bridges road detour.
Dentss Dunnagun July 16, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Anyone else find it strange that LS deny's Commerce bank from opening on prospect ave which is zoned commercial for fear of the "traffic " it would bring ....now would even consider building a winery in a very desirably highly taxed neighborhood that has already seen many accidents on that very dangerous corner ?...something stinks here
thehobler July 16, 2012 at 02:36 PM
How many different kinds of grapes are grown there?
JB July 16, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Absolutely, he loves the grapes, it has nothing to do with saving MONEY on his property taxes. How could the board ever give consideration to such a ludicrous idea. ? A store selling wine on Seven Bridges Road, REALLY !!!!!!
Bill W July 16, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I work in local government in Middletown, the "farms" there pay under $100 on several acres. Pretty good deal. But let's face it, its just a backroom deal amongst the favored to avoid taxes. This property on Seven Bridges is beautiful, the owner started his hobby to enjoy. I'm sure he is proud, but he also knew what his costs would be, too expensive, hmm, reduce the vineyard to a manageable size to suit a "hobby". Pay your fair share of taxes on this property. Just like the rest of us.
Joan S July 16, 2012 at 03:24 PM
he should start with the planning and zoning board.....tasting rooms down the street from the point road school? are you kidding.
Shannon K. Winning July 16, 2012 at 03:46 PM
In February New Jersey Monthly Magazine featured examples of how some NJ wineries have added tasting rooms and stores to their properties. http://njmonthly.com/articles/lifestyle/ready-for-prime-time.html One vinter commented, “People coming to wineries stay at B&Bs, eat at local restaurants." In discussion of the winery's potential impact on Little Silver, what about exploring how it would contribute to the tax ratable base and how it might impact local tourism?
Amy Byrnes (Editor) July 16, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Just to be clear: Any plans for a tasting room that were originally proposed have been scrapped. The owner is now looking to use a building on the property for retail sale of his wine.
Dentss Dunnagun July 16, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Their already are a few empty stores in LS ....want a store to sell wines ,try the empty EXXON station or one of the others ,you don't put a winery and store in a residential zone particularly if you have empty stores already .To be truthful ,our town is getting congested already with cars ....bridge repair aside .
GetSome July 16, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Are you kidding me? There's a liquor store in town a stone's throw away from Markham Place school that is planning on doing occasional wine tastings and we can now use credit cards too! Yee Haa. That's ok though, no problems with that. This guy is trying to start a small business in town that could actually bring tourists into the town which actually means more traffic for the other small businesses in town, but that's bad. Also, do we really need another bank on Prospect Ave in town? We only have 3 of them there right now. There's a Commerce Bank just down the road in Red Bank but that dreaded Branch Avenue traffic probably means at least a 10 minute trip.
Patti Forsman July 16, 2012 at 04:20 PM
It looks like $190 on almost 10 acres. Tax records are public information http://tax1.co.monmouth.nj.us
Dentss Dunnagun July 16, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Since LS is a dry town ,which was last voted on in 1978 and upheld , this must first go to the voters of town and move on from there .Unless of course donations have already been made to the proper authorities .
Joan S July 16, 2012 at 06:16 PM
his winery is in a residential neighborhood with no businesses near it. it would be like adding any commercial business...maybe a marina on breezy point, paag lane...maybe a bed and breakfast on branch avenue.....
GetSome July 16, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I agree. Spring Lake has had some success with B&B's mixed in residential areas. Its a great town.
Power By Sunday Resident July 16, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Open up the wine store and put a nice long boardwalk along the edge of the property with tables to sip the fine NJ Wines, also open up gift winds as a sports bar, we need more liquor licences in town.
Dentss Dunnagun July 18, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Don't even compare Spring Lake to Little Silver .....for starters property taxes are one quarter what they are on comparable home ! million dollar house in LS taxes 25K .....in Spring Lake 6,600.
Frank Caruso July 19, 2012 at 12:32 PM
This wonderful piece of property should not be developed . Let him give it a try. And by the way, his product is very good
Dave T July 20, 2012 at 06:48 PM
With the current poor state of economy a new business should certainly be welcomed by residents of the area. Wine drinkers are unique bunch, they care about the quality and taste of what they drink and will go long distances to find new and exciting wines. Thus, a winery in the area is likely to attract new business, which in turn, will bring tax revenues to the town. I've had the opportunity to taste some of their product, and have been pleasantly surprised on many occasions as to how good it is compared with that of the commercial growers in California. It has my vote!
Amy Byrnes (Editor) July 20, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Mr. DeBlasi's attorney referred to Little Silver as the "Napa of the East Coast" at that council meeting.
Paige B July 20, 2012 at 07:15 PM
I believe this is a fantastic idea for our town of LS! The winery is bound to bring the other businesses around here more business which would be a large help to the economy. It's beautiful to see when driving over the bridge and I think it will be a great new asset to our town. So let's give the guy a chance!
Sherman dog 1 July 20, 2012 at 07:44 PM
The first time a looked out over that bridge and spotted the unmistakeable signs of a grape vineyard I was amazed, and I have went out of my way to see it again. I hope it works out for this little vineyard and winery because this beautiful town of Little Silver deserves it. I applaud the owner of this property and hope he can someday sell his wine, The last time I checked this was America, a place where peoples dreams can come to reality! Yes Im sure some people would rather see condos, but once that happens there's no going back. Wine Tasting on the river in my own backyard, thats sounds AMAZING!
Pierre Crawley July 20, 2012 at 10:25 PM
We all know that regulation by towns is a good thing, but sometimes can go too far. If Mr Deblasi is showing some flexibility in his request then perhaps the town - and residents - can also. A vineyard is an expensive proposition and to help compensate such entrepreneurial efforts perhaps they should allow this - scrapped down activity . Actually I believe the winery itself adds more flavor and quaintness to the area. The hours of operation are so limited in any event.
Billy P July 21, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Bill P It’s tough to break even after developing and operating a winery. One has to be nuts or have a great love for growing grapes and producing wine. It looks like this land owner has spent a small fortune beautifying Little Silver. If he wants to throw more money into this endeavor, that should be his prerogative. I say let him sell a few bottles of wine he so proudly produces right here in this great town.
Mkie G July 22, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Mike g “Though shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods” I don’t begrudge Dr. Deblasi his right to make excellent use of his open space. These laws were written for the specific purpose, to preserving our states natural beauty. Do we really want Little Silver to be homogenized into one continuous land mass with abutting towns? Down with condos and town houses (with their potential to incur further expense and a higher tax rate to residents.) Up with vineyards.
Dentss Dunnagun July 22, 2012 at 03:55 PM
absolutely Paige ...I have a friend who lives on Pagg lane he is already drawing up plans for a car wash once the area becomes commercially zoned ,I had enough of paying 100 bucks to Dr Detail plus I won't have to deal with the traffic
sienna August 14, 2012 at 12:34 AM
I think it's a wonderful idea. Our society is in a terrible state of affairs . This guy has an american dream and he should be allowed to follow through and be given the opportunity to make an attempt to start up a business focused on one of the natural products (grapes) available from good old mother nature. This vineyard is a little piece of heaven on earth. The vision of the vineyard from the bridge alone should convince anyoneof the additional beauty it currently contributes to LS. It is truly a shame there is so much bander about traffic etc.we're discussing an added asset to the community not a detriment.
Eric Folker July 03, 2013 at 10:47 AM
Frankly, I dont see the issue that many of you are proposing. A local winery could do wonders for the economy. The man wants to run a business, not screw taxpayers. His hobby has turned into a vision where he wants to develop the property to include a tasting room and a selling area. Whether or not he is able to call it a farm, I believe that he should be able to sell his product. I am also extremely interested in trying the wine that he makes. New Jersey wines on the rise.
Eric Folker July 03, 2013 at 10:53 AM
I am also interested in developing a winery in the area. Similar to the one on Navesink River Road in Middletown, wineries seem to be on the rise in the area. With 46 wineries currently operating in the state, NJ wine is here to stay, and will compete with Californian wines within a few years
bryan flake January 27, 2014 at 03:31 PM
As a business venture who cares what this guy does with his property. I am not a wine drinker by any means, but hey, let let this guy pursue the American dream and let him make his money he own legal way. bryanflake1984| http://www.scrubadub.com/locationshours/brooklinecarwash.html

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