Hernando County Commission expands use of dog show facility

BROOKSVILLE — The dog shows will go on.

Tuesday, the Hernando County Commission unanimously approved a change in the master plan for Florida Classic Park, allowing more and longer dog shows and clearing up several violations of a previous master plan for the 50-acre site on Lockhart Road, east of Brooksville.

The property is the site of several annual dog shows that draw canine enthusiasts from across the country and even other countries, pulling visitors into the community who spend money on food, lodging and other goods and services. That was the message delivered by several speakers during Tuesday's commission meeting including local hoteliers, dog show participants and local business owners.

But the changes were not supported by nearby neighbors Herbert and Deborah Wells, who have had long-standing issues with the noise, the intrusive lighting and the congestion they say the shows bring into their neighborhood.

"I don't want the lights on my house,'' Wells told commissioners. "I don't want to hear their loudspeakers. … That's not what we moved out to the country for.''

Commission chairman Jim Adkins urged the operators of the park to be good neighbors. He was concerned about the lights from the event shining directly in to nearby homes. And he said he had heard the national anthem cranked up so high that the words were garbled. Adkins said the volume needed to be reduced.

Commissioner John Druzbick said that the lighting problem was something that has been resolved in other places. Reflectors could direct the light off the neighbors' property, he said.

Representing the park operators, Realtor Gary Schraut of Brooksville said that a much more intense use of the property is allowed under its zoning, and he noted that the site is near Interstate 75, where there is road noise and light all the time.

He defended the work of the dog show organizers saying that they were all volunteers and their work had a huge impact on the local economy. Schraut also said that some of the neighbors' complaints were baseless and that the park operators have tried to work with them without success.

But after the vote and another admonition from Adkins to find a way to mitigate some of the negative impacts on neighbors, Schraut said the park owners will comply with the county's rules and try to do that.

Operators of the dog shows had allowed several things on the site that were not permitted under their previous master plan, prompting a code enforcement case. But with the commission's vote Tuesday, a speaker system and lighting already on site can stay.

The new provisions also allow an increase from seven to 15 dog shows a year and the shows can last up to 14 days, double what was allowed before. In addition, 305 parking spaces for recreational vehicles will be permitted, compared to a previous limit of 265.

The new master plan also allows an expansion of existing permitted uses to include local church events, car shows and staging for the motor coach rally that takes place each February at the Hernando County Airport.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

>>COUNTY COMMISSION

Other business

The Hernando County Commission took action on several other issues Tuesday:

• The board voted unanimously to put out a request for proposals for companies that can provide a countywide wireless service through the emerging technology known as WiMax. Michael McHugh, manager of business development, told commissioners that the technology is needed to draw in the types of businesses he hopes to lure to Hernando County. Such high-speed Internet access across the county would provide primary wireless service for the unserved and underserved in both the residential and business communities and backup service for businesses that cannot afford to be without that technology.

• The board approved hiring Brian Malmberg as the new county engineer, replacing Charles Mixson, who was terminated a year ago. Malmberg is a civil-environmental engineer who has been working for Marion County since 2009. Before that, he managed the Brooksville office of Heidt & Associates and worked for several private firms in the Kissimmee and Orlando areas. His starting salary is $75,000.

• The board unanimously approved amendments to the contract with the International Association of Fire Fighters. The changes include requiring all members of the bargaining unit to attempt the annual physical fitness test. There were no cost of living raises in the contract amendments and a longevity payment to workers who no longer received annual step raises was eliminated. Step raises for others moving up the salary scale were approved. Commissioners said they wanted to revisit the step raise issue later this year when talks open for the start of another three-year contract.

• Commissioners learned that county emergency management director Cecilia Patella has submitted a claim for $28,514 to BP for county expenses incurred due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill last year. The claim to the BP Government Claims Center was filed last month. During the spill, Patella coordinated activities across various county and public safety entities and her office drew up the county's first oil spill emergency plan.

Hernando County Commission expands use of dog show facility 02/08/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 8:26pm]

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