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Radio-controlled planes can stay at Hernando site

BROOKSVILLE — Plans for a model airplane airstrip near Masaryktown will fly despite strong opposition from some neighbors.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 3-2 on Monday to allow the Hernando County Radio Control Club to continue to use a 40-acre site on Benes Roush Road to fly model planes and train novice model airplane pilots.

A charity event held at the site in November whipped up opposition to the club's activities from some neighbors, sending the club to the county to seek formal approval of their activities. Several of the unhappy neighbors attended Monday's meeting to complain about noise and congestion in their rural area of Hernando County.

The opposition prompted the commissioners to clamp down on how the model airplane enthusiasts can use the property.

Under the "special exception'' rules approved by the commission Monday, the club can operate from Monday through Saturday only, with a maximum of 10 people at the site on any given day. No more special events will be allowed and models with noisy "chain saw engines'' would not be able to use the strip.

The club's long- and short-term goals are to keep the field and to continue to build and fly radio-controlled models, club president Cliff Manspeaker told the commission.

Representing adjacent property owner CFR Properties LLC, Anita Geraci described a scene from the November event, which benefited Hospice, with 200 cars lined up in a field beside her client's property, with unsightly portable toilets and concession stands nearby. Buzzing airplanes overhead posed a safety concern.

"It's detrimental to my client's property,'' she said. "It's not compatible with residential living on large acres of land.''

"There are people there seven days a week,'' said Fred Plummer, the owner of that adjacent tract. He said the November event belonged at the fairgrounds, not in his neighborhood.

"It's a commercial venture,'' he said. "It's not a private airstrip.''

Another nearby neighbor, Ron Deal, said he and his family had thought about buying another piece of property down the road but learned that the model club used that site. But the owner of that land died and so the club moved last year to a new site whose owners have a special arrangement with the club. Now Deal said his family has to put up with the models anyway.

While he said the horses and cattle on his property were bothered by the models, "a cow or a horse will get used to anything, but it's the people we have to be concerned about.''

Another neighbor, Bill Waldron, who owns a horse farm on 150 acres north of the site, didn't have a problem with the model operators.

"They a good kind of people,'' he said, noting that they have even mentored his son. Waldron suggested that, if the county wanted to legislate noise, dust and congestion in the neighborhood, they could start with the motorcycles and construction trucks that use the road.

Of the model enthusiasts he said, "They do more good than harm.''

Manspeaker said that his group had already decided not to do any more public events before even coming to the meeting Monday. The group had also agreed to other concessions suggested by another neighbor. From now on, the field would just be used for their 100 members to fly and work on their airplanes as well as for training new members.

As the commissioners began to add stricter rules for the club to follow, Manspeaker said his group was willing to work with the county in whatever way it could to continue the activities at the site.

Planning and Zoning commissioner Joe Palmieri expressed concern about the aircraft flying off the actual property and over the neighbors who were objecting.

"I'm not in favor of this,'' said Chairwoman Anna Liisa Covell, citing the location near neighbors with no ability to buffer residents from the activity. She also expressed concern about the noise associated with the models.

"I certainly wouldn't want it next to my house,'' Covell said.

Palmieri and Covell cast the two no votes.

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

Radio-controlled planes can stay at Hernando site 03/10/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 10, 2008 7:08pm]

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