LaBelle gets OK from ZBA
Distillery is approved for development across street
AMHERST – LaBelle Winery cleared a hurdle last week for the major development it hopes to build across from its restaurant and vineyards on Route 101.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to allow a distillery and tasting room on the property. In August, the board had approved a height variance for an inn and restaurant, part of what LaBelle calls an artisan culinary village.
LaBelle needed two variances, and received the first one in August when the board decided to split the application in two. The board made the second one the distillery and tasting room, saying it’s an industrial use.
Board members and abutters had been concerned about a distillery’s water use and the potential impact on nearby wells. But a report from StoneHill Environmental said the proposed facility would not result in any measurable impacts on private residential wells in the neighborhood.
The distilled products to be produced by LaBelle are made from fermented mash, wine and neutral spirits. In LaBelle’s case, neutral grain spirits will be purchased to create artisan vodka, gin and other products, while wine will be used to create brandy.
"Neither of those processes requires water to produce the final product, besides incidental washing of equipment," the report said.
In the case of whiskey, bourbon or other grain spirits, it said, the processes require small quantities of water.
"LaBelle has conducted extensive research on distilling operations and contacted other distilleries in the region to confirm the low water usage volumes they anticipate using at their proposed distillery," the report said.
"The distillery proposed at the LaBelle facility is expected to use no more than 1,000 gallons of water a day, and likely much less, a volume equivalent to the typical interior daily water use for two to three residential homes.
The report also outlined LaBelle’s water conservation measures, including the use of steam for cleaning.
In addition, it said, the way the land drains in the residential neighborhood will minimize the effect of water withdrawal from LaBelle’s operations.
In approving the variance for the inn and restaurant last month, ZBA members agreed it was a good use of the 11 acres and would have little or no impact on the neighborhood north of the proposed development.
LaBelle’s next step in the town’s approval process is a site plan review by the Planning Board.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.