Nude dude ranch opens in Brooksville without county permission

Tim Clements and David Jennings recently opened up their 10-acre horse farm as  a dude ranch and started advertising the clothing-optional facility as a bed-and-breakfast with available RV spaces. All those uses require county permission, but the owners got none. Now they’re in trouble with the neighbors and the county.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tim Clements and David Jennings recently opened up their 10-acre horse farm as a dude ranch and started advertising the clothing-optional facility as a bed-and-breakfast with available RV spaces. All those uses require county permission, but the owners got none. Now they’re in trouble with the neighbors and the county.

BROOKSVILLE — Tim Clements was excited about getting his new business up and running.

Several weeks ago, he put up an impressive sign on the gate of his 10-acre horse farm on remote Hampstead Drive, tucked away in a pastoral setting in southeast Hernando not far from the Pasco County line.

He named the business the CJ Dude Ranch, combining his last name and that of David Jennings, co-owner of the property. "I just named it for us two dudes,'' he said. "Two guys on a farm with horses.''

Clements put the finishing touches on a new Web site, cjduderanch.com, that features scenic shots of his property and photos of his many pets.

He then set out a price list for the new bed-and-breakfast he was offering to visitors, a luxury bedroom suite built from a converted two-car garage.

The Dude Ranch is unique in another way: It is clothing optional.

With one exception, that is. Visitors "must wear pants and boots to ride the horses,'' the Web site states.

Clements said that was a no-brainer. "You don't want blisters on your (behind), do you?'' he said.

While putting all those pieces into place, Clements did overlook one important step. He never sought permission from Hernando County to set up the business.

Neighbors saw the new sign and began asking questions. Last week, county code enforcement officers were called in to check out the operation.

Clements and Jennings actually operate several businesses on the site that appear to require county approval. Clements said he never knew that such review was needed. Just this year, he said, he learned that he could get an agricultural property tax exemption.

The property is zoned agricultural and running a dude ranch or a bed-and-breakfast is allowed under the county's land use rules if a property owner has a special exception approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The men are also operating three sites for recreational vehicles to hook up, something that county zoning administrator Gary Fisher said might require a zoning change.

"It's something we'd have to talk to the applicant about,'' he said.

Clements said that he also offers primitive camp sites and horseback riding. And parked on site is a 45-foot-long tour bus sporting a washer and dryer and kitchen that is used for running tours.

The clothing-optional aspect of the business might also bring some government notice. Fisher noted that the county has a no-public-nudity ordinance, enacted in 2002.

At the time the County Commission was considering the ordinance, representatives of the Florida Naturist Association asked the county to allow nudist clubs, parks and resorts.

The group "suggested that the failure to include a specific provision authorizing nudity in nudist or naturist resorts … constitutes discrimination against an otherwise legal use of property,'' according to a memo at the time by Assistant County Attorney Kent Weissinger.

He went on to say that the county's ordinance was based on one already tested in court and provided "the best means of prohibiting nudity in public places.'' Commissioners never approved the addition to allow nudity in clubs, parks or resorts.

Clements, 50, said he didn't think anything was wrong with the clothing-optional designation because of the remote location and the vegetation all around his property. "My place is so private,'' he said. "I'm always out washing the bus in the nude.''

He also noted that he "can see the Pasco County line'' from the property. Pasco, he pointed out, has several well-known nudist communities.

A retired hairdresser from Ormond Beach, Clements was in the Brooksville area camping when he hit the lotto in 2004 on a ticket he bought at the Winn-Dixie on Cortez Boulevard.

He collected a lump sum of $3.3 million, and learned quickly that staying in Ormond Beach, where he ran a day spa, was going to be a problem. People he didn't even know were asking him for money.

Clements returned to Hernando and found the remote 10-acre parcel, to get away from it all. His friends started asking him when they could come to visit, and the idea for the dude ranch was born.

"I grew up on a farm,'' he said, noting that the ranch has horses, some of them rescued, donkeys, dogs, swans and a variety of other animals.

He made sure to add plenty of other features to the site which might also attract visitors. His Web site also includes information about wireless access, a massage chair, a steam room, a hot tub, a pool and a tanning bed.

Though young, the business has already been a buckle sponsor for the team roping event at the Sunshine Stampede rodeo sponsored by the Florida Gay Rodeo Association this month.

Clements said he would follow up with the county to see what he would need to do to run his ranch. After filing the appropriate applications, he can seek hearings before the Planning Commission and possibly the County Commission if a rezoning is needed.

If that doesn't work out, Clements said, "I might just shut it down'' and go back to simply inviting friends to stay there.

While he didn't expect to make much money from the operation, "just enough to feed the horses,'' the ranch is more of a way to live out a dream.

"God blessed me with a gift,'' Clements said. "I just thought that all I wanted to do was have a place to play and I was so far hidden, I didn't even think about it.

"I just thought I was creating a cute little 10-acre dude ranch.''

News researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Nude dude ranch opens in Brooksville without county permission 04/18/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 19, 2009 5:40pm]

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