LaBelle Winery explores expansion on different plot of landBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
January 14. 2018 8:41PM
AMHERST — With litigation stalling plans for LaBelle Winery to expand across the street and open an inn, restaurant, distillery and brewery, the owners have found a new parcel they are considering for at least some of the project.
Next month, LaBelle Winery owners Amy LaBelle and Cesar Arboleda will approach the planning board seeking a lot line adjustment on property owned by Friends of Young Judaea, Inc., on Camp Road.
The Camp Road property is a separate site from the 48-acre parcel across the street from the winery that was originally eyed for an expansion to LaBelle Winery. The new site is a 13-acre parcel — part of the Jewish camp’s 65-acre property partially in Amherst and partially in Merrimack — that could be used to meet some of the winery’s immediate needs.
Although LaBelle Winery acquired the separate 48-acre parcel across the road from the winery at 340 Route 101, that project has hit a snag as Amherst resident Richard Fredette filed an appeal of a zoning decision to approve a variance that would permit the development; the case is still at superior court and mediation is ongoing.
“I can make it work on either side, but this is slightly better,” Amy LaBelle said recently of the newly proposed location near 9 Camp Road.
Although LaBelle liked the original concept she is still fighting for across the street on Route 101, the new proposal provides a different option, she told the planning board during a previous meeting where conceptual plans for the Camp Road plot were introduced.
“They need more function space. They believe that they have a strong market, presence and ability for a distillery,” Ken Clinton of Meridian Land Services told the board earlier.
While there would not be enough space for an inn at the site on Camp Road, there are about 3.5 to 4 acres of developable land for a distillery with a tasting room, function space and offices, according to Clinton.
He said the Route 101 property could still potentially be pursued for an inn, tavern and retail space, however the litigation would need to be resolved favorably.
“There has been some level of mediation ordered,” he said, referring to the neighbors and LaBelle owners.
Selectman Peter Lyon told LaBelle that he likes the newest proposal because the traffic impact will be less significant, adding the original proposal across the road on Route 101 raises traffic concerns for him and others.
With that property now on hold, Clinton told the board that the winery is considering and exploring all of its alternatives to help move forward with meeting its immediate needs.
Neighbors on Holly Hill argued earlier that the original proposal for a 24-room inn, 150-seat restaurant, office space and the town’s first distillery, would alter the character of the neighborhood, create traffic and safety problems, decrease nearby property values and fail to preserve Amherst’s historic and cultural resources.
LaBelle said earlier that her original proposal would be upscale and cozy, and provide world-class service and attention to detail. The event space, she said, will be available for celebrations, culinary classes, community programs and the arts.
“It will benefit Amherst by adding substantial corporate taxes to help the taxpayers of Amherst by lessening the tax burden and diversifying Amherst’s tax base,” she said previously “It will provide much needed jobs — up to 100 new jobs — that are good paying.”