Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

County should act to protect neighbors of hunting camp, gun range

It would be nice if we could just ignore Ron Ritter.

It would be nice if not paying attention to Ritter, who runs a hog-hunting camp in Ridge Manor, would do what that supposedly does to loudmouths — quiet him down. Even nicer if it stopped him from creating problems for neighbors of the property he leases off U.S. 98, south of State Road 50.

But it hasn't.

For the past year, the county has taken a mostly hands-off approach to Ritter.

Not that it hasn't addressed other issues on this property — and there are several. But, still, the county has allowed Ritter's camp to operate.

It's allowed it even though the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's denied his plan for a hunting preserve in 2012, and, last year, the Hernando County Commission rejected his request for a special exemption permit.

It's allowed it even though neighbors have complained about, among other annoyances, around-the-clock gunfire; armed, drunken patrons wandering near or over property lines, and stinking hog carcasses left to rot.

Ritter still advertises "boar-hog hunting, fishing, camping, (and) retreats" on his website,

The sound of gunfire from the property is still loud enough, said neighbor Tracy Brown, that when "you are dead asleep it will sit you straight up in your bed."

And Ritter still seems determined to continue to cause as much aggravation as possible.

Last week, he sent a news release announcing he will hold a grand opening Sept. 13 for a 24-hour gun range on the property, an event that will include shooting, fishing, camping, raffles and the giveaway of a shotgun to a deserving mother — for home protection, of course.

Besides spreading the word of his new business venture, Ritter said, the opening will serve as a fundraiser to make up for the revenue lost by the county's excessive interference with his operation.

Actually, county, please interfere more.

Yes, people should have the right to hunt on agricultural land, especially for pest animals such as feral pigs. They should not, however, be allowed to run unregulated, disruptive and potentially dangerous businesses.

Ritter has been able to get away with this for as long as he has partly because the state's absurd gun laws offer him a measure of protection, especially the one that holds elected officials personally liable — subject to paying fines out of their own pocket, in other words — if they try to make rules about guns that are stricter than the state's.

It's an intimidating law, and Ritter, a stocky, gun-loving former professional mixed martial arts fighter, can be a frightening person.

And maybe that's contributed to the county's generous interpretation of the 2013 agritourism law that Ritter likes to cite.

The idea was to allow farmers to make some money, to bring in visitors, to teach our increasingly urban population about how food is produced. The law attempts to create a "direct linkage between agritourism and actual agricultural production," said Erin Gillespie, spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Which I take to mean that if the farming operation is about breeding horses, which is the case with the Ridge Manor property, the recreation should be buggy rides or show jumping. It's hard to see how hunting applies, especially because there's not one word about it in the law — and even harder to see

But state law is clearer when it comes to gun ranges.

The county can definitely forbid new ones from opening, which is what should happen here.

The county needs to do what it can to keep the first paying customer from firing the first shot.

They need send a message to Ritter and other self-appointed champions of personal freedom that, as his neighbor Tracy Brown said, "just because your property is zoned agricultural doesn't mean you can do whatever you want to do."

This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification: Ron Pianta, Hernando County's assistant administrator of planning and development, relied on an assistant county attorney's opinion when he said that a hog-hunting camp should be allowed on agricultural land in Ridge Manor. Also, the county code enforcement office has not received any complaints about the property in the past year. These points were not clear in Dan DeWitt's Aug. 22 column.

County should act to protect neighbors of hunting camp, gun range 08/21/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 26, 2014 2:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: Trump owes apology to fallen soldier's Miami family


    There is no more sacred, solemn role for a president than to comfort grieving family members of soldiers who have given their lives in service of their country. Those calls cannot be easy, and some presidents are better at it than others. Yet President Donald Trump and his administration continue to engage in a …

  2. Lightning: Jon Cooper takes unusual tact to create mistmatches

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Tyler Johnson is about to swing his left leg over the boards for his next shift alongside linemate Alex Killorn and ... whom else?

    Stamkos? Kucherov? Point?

    Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper argues the called as his team gets a faceoff violation, leading to penalty and #Caps PP goal, during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday evening (10/09/17).DIRK SHADD   |   Times
  3. Hillsborough teachers get a hard no on scheduled pay raises


    The Hillsborough County School District cannot afford to advance teachers to their next year's pay levels, employee relations manager Mark West told the union at Monday afternoon's bargaining session.

    This might be the last teacher bargaining session in Hillsborough for awhile. Although the two sides are not officially at an impasse, the district says it cannot pay teachers their scheduled raises.
  4. Editorial: A neighborhood under attack unites


    Three murders in two weeks understandably have Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood on edge. But Tampa police and residents are working together to find the killer and are connecting in ways that will strengthen the community in the long run. This is the best reaction to the tragedy of the three deaths, and it should …

    Seminole Heights residents came together in a candlelight vigil Sunday night to pay respect to the families and to demonstrate that they will not be cowed into staying indoors.
  5. Students at middle school pretend to rape black classmates on Snapchat


    The Snapchat had just about every offensive topic the middle school students could cram into a video clip: race-based simulated sexual assaults, profanity-laced slurs and repulsive language that shocked whoever the intended audience was - and, eventually, many more people.

    Students at a Virginia middle school pretended to rape other students on video, which was shared on Snapchat. Reports say white members of a football team enacted the rape scenes while in the locker room. This photo of a standard locker room is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.