Arrested development

Photo by KATHY CLEVELAND Cars parked along the driveway of the LaBelle Winery during its recent winter festival.

AMHERST – Amy LaBelle says she still wants to buy property across Route 101 to expand her winery in Amherst despite a lawsuit filed by a neighbor.

LaBelle, however, said she and her husband, Cesar Arboleda, wouldn’t rule out moving the expansion out of town if the delay becomes onerous.

“We are looking at all our options,” she said.

The couple will continue trying to buy the 48-acre property so they can build a hotel, restaurant and distillery, along with more vineyards. An old farm building on the property would be converted to offices.

In papers filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court-Northern District last month, Richard Fredette, of Winterberry Drive – through his attorneys, Craig, Deachman & Amann – contends the 11-acre development would “forever alter the character and quality of the neighborhood” and the “commercial development conflicts to a marked degree with the zoning ordinance.” Fredette says it isn’t compatible with the area’s rural character.

The property is in the town’s Northern Transitional Zone, where permitted uses include single-family homes, farms, farm stands and home occupations.

Last year, the Zoning Board of Adjustment gave the project two variances, one for the hotel and restaurant and the other for the distillery.

The ZBA approved parts of the variance in August and September and upheld its decisions after a November rehearing.

Board members said the property’s steep terrain limits its uses, that it isn’t appropriate for single-family houses, and that what LaBelle has called an artisan village is the kind of upscale development they want to encourage.

LaBelle Winery was built on the east side of Route 101 in 2012 when LaBelle and Arboleda moved the operation out of their Amherst backyard. It has a bistro, function room and wine-tasting terrace overlooking acres of vineyards.

A court hearing is scheduled for April.

“I am trying to be patient, which is not easy for an entrepreneur,” LaBelle said, but, “we want everyone to be comfortable” with the development.

Last August, a Zoning Board hearing drew about 130 people, including residents of the nearby Holly Hill neighborhood who were opposed, as well as many residents who said the winery’s expansion would be a boon for the town and the area.

The property is the last remaining portion of Bragdon Farm, which once covered 183 acres. The Bragdon family donated the Bragdon Hill sledding area, adjacent to the winery, to the town many years ago.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or