BROOKSVILLE — Despite a petition and two recommendations for denial, Hernando County commissioners Wednesday breathed life into a plan to open a restaurant in the abandoned Spring Hill Lions Club hall.
At a land use hearing, commissioners voted 4-1 to rezone the site from agricultural to commercial, paving the way for the restaurant.
But the plan hasn't been given the green light yet. County commissioners asked the Planning Department to come up with a set of conditions for the restaurant, which could include restrictions on opening, closing and delivery times, among other stipulations.
A representative for Norino & Balsam Properties said the company did not yet have a tenant for the building.
The Planning Department and Planning and Zoning Commission previously recommended denial of the request.
The restaurant would be at the south end of Hallcrest Avenue, just south of Fairbanks Road near County Line Road.
Several residents protested the restaurant, saying it would add unwanted traffic and distractions to the otherwise quiet neighborhood.
"I just don't want that restaurant in my backyard," said Charlene Crotsley, who lives near the building.
Crotsley gathered signatures on a petition that denounced the restaurant.
The names of Robert Athey and William Athey appear on the first page of the petition, signatures Nos. 8 and 9 out of 107.
Problem is, both men told commissioners they didn't even know such a petition existed.
Many of the names on the petition were written by the same person. Crotsley admitted she called a lot of residents and wrote in their names if they agreed.
"We did it legally," she said.
County Attorney Garth Coller said there was an issue of fraud, given that one person signed another's name, but also acknowledged it was unlikely the petitioner would face criminal charges.
In fact, Robeth Athey said he'd like to see a restaurant fill the empty building.
Inevitably, county commissioners agreed, saying if the restaurant did not go there, the building could fall into disrepair and become an eyesore.
Commissioner Diane Rowden was the lone dissenter.
Michael Sanserino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1430.