BROOKSVILLE — Few issues stir up the public quite like a debate over commercial activity in a residential neighborhood.
County officials got a taste of that late last year when a Spring Hill man sought permission to run a gun sales operation out of his home.
While county commissioners' hands were tied by a state law that pre-empts local governments from regulating the sale or use of firearms, the application brought to light several issues with the county's zoning ordinance.
Since then, the county staff has written a new home occupation amendment, pulling together zoning regulations scattered in various places in the ordinance.
But even before the changes are aired in a first public hearing, they threaten to ignite another controversy.
One provision in the first version of the amendment stated "absolutely no vehicles with signage may be parked outside the residence.''
County commissioners began receiving phone calls from constituents who said the rule was heavy-handed and unnecessary.
"I got a number of phone calls, and people are not happy with part of the ordinance,'' said Commissioner John Druzbick.
They told Druzbick they were opposed "if in a non-deed-restricted area they were not allowed to have a vehicle that has any sort of advertising on it,'' he said.
Commissioner Dave Russell said there was ambiguity in the proposed ordinance amendment language.
"(County planning staffers) don't want the home address advertised,'' he said. "I get that.
"What I'm concerned about is anyone who would drive a vehicle home with a placard on the side would be a violation,'' Russell said.
He noted that businesses allow employees to take home vehicles that advertise their services.
"I would not want to see those people cited for merely taking a vehicle home,'' he said.
"I like cottage industries,'' Russell said. "There are some businesses that fit well with neighborhoods.''
Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said the county has to be careful with the message it sends to the community with any amendment to the ordinance.
"There is a lot of distrust of government in America right now," he said. "People are worried about how this is going to affect me. They're worrying about Big Brother.''
Dukes said he wanted to talk further with Ron Pianta, the county's director of land services, about the issue before commissioners vote on any changes.
Pianta already knows many of the questions that the community and commissioners have. He acknowledged that the language regarding signage was more forceful than it needed to be, and said he will bring a new version before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday.
The new version does not include the language prohibiting the parking of vehicles with signs outside a residence.
Pianta said the original proposal was never meant to exclude trucks bearing nothing more than signs or vehicles wrapped with advertising. The proposal was aimed at restricting outdoor advertising for a home business.
Work vehicles that are modified, however, such as those with special tool boxes or braces for ladders, are a different issue.
Pianta said he also is proposing changes regarding those types of vehicles, though they are not connected with home business operations.
Currently, equipment can be kept in a neighborhood if it is out of sight, but not commercial vehicles. The amended version of the proposal, presented to commissioners on Wednesday, would allow business vehicles on residential property if they were out of sight.
Some neighborhoods have their own stricter restrictions and covenants, Pianta said.
In the rest of the county, the rules are enforced by county code enforcement, which will be moved under Pianta's supervision on Oct. 1.
While the Planning and Zoning Commission will review and discuss the home occupation issue during its meeting at 9 a.m. Monday, the final decision on the amendment rests with the County Commission.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.