BROOKSVILLE — After facing a crowd of angry neighbors and hearing 2 1/2 hours of emotional discussion, the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday approved a permit for a hog-hunting camp near Ridge Manor.
Chairman Ron Caldi told unhappy residents that they could appeal the decision to the County Commission.
The camp's neighbors say they will.
Since early 2011, Ron Ritter has been running a hog hunting camp on an 80-acre property south of Cortez Boulevard and west of McKethan Road. During that time, neighbors have reported hearing gun blasts in the middle of the night, and seeing drunken hunters on or near their property and butchered hog parts littering the Withlachoochee River.
The heated discussion Monday continued as residents, Ritter and the property owner Ann Semeniuk left the Government Center. Camp opponent Tracy Brown said that after the exchange, she filed a complaint of harassment and threats against her by Ritter with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
During the meeting, Brown, her voice quivering from emotion, told the planning commission, "I would plead with you all to not pass any permit which would legitimize what's been going on.''
Her fiance, Matthew Rich, repeated Brown's story that the two once found a drunken man from the camp late at night on their fence line with a gun in one hand and a flashlight in the other. "I have a right to peace and tranquility,'' Rich said, "and not to live in constant fear of being shot.''
Ritter maintained that didn't happen and that alcohol was not consumed by hunters at the camp.
Planning commissioners struggled with a decision because, while most of the fears of neighbors related to the hunting, the hunting is allowed on the agricultural land. That meant the decision had to be based on whether the zoning allowed guests to stay overnight on the property.
Eventually, the majority of the commission agreed to the permit but limited the number of campers in each campsite and required that a manager be on site whenever hunters are on the property.