What Richard DeBlasi wants to do is sell his wine and offset the approximately $200,000 it costs annually to grow and maintain grapes at his vineyard on Seven Bridges Road.
"It's a lot of money to do grapes, and this would help," DeBlasi said at the July 9 Little Silver 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 Rd. for over 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.