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 kcleveland@cabinet.com.