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PAINTBALL FACILITY TO WAIT FOR FATE

The county delays a vote on allowing them in rural areas.

Residents battling over the future of paintball in Balm must wait to find out a controversial field's fate.

County commissioners last week were scheduled to discuss a proposed amendment to the county's land development code that would allow paintball facilities to operate in the county's rural areas. Ultimately, they decided to postpone their vote until Aug. 7.

But supporters and opponents of the Legends Paintball Complex still sparred over the facility.

County planners suggested restrictions that would limit activities at the facility. If commissioners approved the change, there would be no skate parks or batting cages, no tall light towers or speakers, only paintball.

Vin Marchetti, an attorney representing the owner of the 119-acre facility, said that was over-regulation. But he urged commissioners to support his client's proposed change to county codes.

A dozen others said they supported the proposal. Many of them were children, wearing paintball uniforms and camouflage T-shirts.

Michael Phillips, 29, of Riverview, described the field as "a dream come true" - a facility that is well-run and conveniently located only a few miles from his home.

"Balm is a quiet place," he said. "Until the paintball field opened, I never realized there was a gas station down there."

But opponents of Legends' proposal criticized the facility for shattering the rural peace and quiet. They urged commissioners not to be swayed by the children who spoke.

"It's setting a dangerous precedent," said Glenda Piasecki, vice president of the Balm Civic Association. "They have been running illegally from the day they opened shop. What does that teach our children?"

Commissioners Al Higginbotham, Mark Sharpe and Brian Blair, who did not attend last week's meeting, will have an opportunity to listen to recordings of the meeting before their Aug. 7 vote.

There will be no public comment at that meeting, commission Chairman Jim Norman said.

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at cshoichet@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2454.

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