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Hernando County Commission says yes to Great Spirit Farm

Neighbors worry about the impact on their equestrian community.

BROOKSVILLE — It has taken a couple of years and some plan changes, but the Great Spirit Farms Healing and Retreat Center ultimately scored unanimous approval from the Hernando County Commission this week.

The center is planned for 10 of the 20 acres that Travis Morehead and Shannon Hernandez own on Walking Horse Trail near the Withlacoochee State Forest. They plan to hold weekly religious services for members, as well as periodic retreats for small groups interested in religious rites connected with Native American traditions.

Two years ago, a more ambitious plan included more events, larger and more regular gatherings, weddings, short-term rentals and massage therapy session. It was nixed by the county’s planning board.

Residents who turned out for Tuesday’s hearing before the County Commission repeated many of their earlier concerns, even for the scaled-down version of the project. They worried about traffic on their narrow dirt roads, the safety of neighbors who ride their horses there, commercial uses in their agricultural area, loud music and general disruption of their neighborhood.

But County Attorney Garth Coller told commissioners that the legal bar was high for stopping someone from worshiping in their own way on their property. During their presentation, Morehead and Hernandez said it was their right to practice their religious beliefs on the property.

Planning Commission approval last month said that no more than five people could attend each event. The County Commission doubled that limit to 10, which Morehead said was acceptable.