BROOKSVILLE — A proposed boutique winery on an established blueberry farm just north of the Hernando-Pasco county line got the nod of approval this week from the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission.
Daniel Ebbecke, who has been farming blueberries since 1996, was granted a special exception use permit for the winery, on the north side of Phillips Road about a mile south of Ayers Road, east of Masaryktown.
Ebbecke told the planning commission he plans to use his blueberries and other locally grown fruit to produce a variety of wines and beers and offer wine tastings, in addition to his U-pick farm fruits and vegetables and other agri-tourism opportunities.
He noted that he would only be offering tastings and had no plans to "open a bar in the woods.''
Ebbecke expects to employee one or two people and plans to use the existing building on the site for the operation.
Unlike other recent applications for wineries, Ebbecke's neighbors came out to support his efforts. Next-door neighbor Dennis Wilson said he has known Ebbecke for 35 years and that he is "an honest and hard-working man'' who assured him the operation would not be a problem in the neighborhood.
"This is going to be a rather tranquil, tourism kind of operation,'' Wilson said.
Ebbecke said that, while he originally asked for hours of operation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., he realized that in the winter, visitors will likely leave when the sun sets, but in the summer stay longer. The county staff agreed to alter the application, with the planning commission members' approval, to set hours from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Planning commission member Ronald Cohen asked why the staff limited the number of visitors to 100 per day, but fellow members Denis Riley and Lynn Gruber-White expressed concern about not setting a limit.
The limit was a tool for code enforcement "if the intensity of use impacts the quality of life in a negative way,'' Gruber-White explained. Ultimately the commission decided to keep the limit of 100 visitors per day.
The permit passed with unanimous approval.
Contact Barbara Behrendt at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.