The blasts from a 12-gauge shotgun on a farm in the sprawling rural enclave of Darby shouldn’t be unusual. Lots of people discharge firearms on agricultural property.
But the shooting west of Bellamy Brothers Boulevard comes in two-shot increments from 25 locations for hours at a time, six days a week. The targets are clay pigeons.
It is the practice range of Dania Vizzi, a member of the U.S. National Shotgun Team, a two-time national champion, world champion, Olympic hopeful and recent bronze medalist at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
It also is illegal, according to Pasco County ordinances. Under state law, the county can not control firearm use on agricultural land, but it can regulate gun ranges. And the Vizzi family turned the farm into a private skeet shooting range last year without county permission.
“I just really need it to train,’’ Vizzi, 24, of Odessa in Hillsborough County, told the Pasco Planning Commission last week. “This is my passion. This is what I love to do. I want to represent my country for as long as I can, and I would love your help.’’
Her parents, Arthur J. and Doree Vizzi, purchased three parcels totaling 53 acres in August 2018 for $549,000. They installed two structures from which to launch the clay pigeons and to use for storage. The county cited them Nov. 1 for developing the site without proper approvals, but the Vizzis have been allowed to continue using the range since they applied for their permits.
A conditional-use permit to operate the range requires the blessing of the appointed county Planning Commission and then elected county commissioner. Last week, the neighbors in Darby said the Vizzi application should be rejected.
“I can’t work on my garden. I don’t know when she’s going to be there’’ shooting, said Judy Geiger, whose property is just south of the Vizzi land.
Farther to the north is the home of Glenn Stevenson and his business, GS Arabians International. He said the noise from the shooting range has harmed his horse-breeding business as boarders have taken their animals elsewhere.
“It’s not the fact of the shooting. It’s the duration,’’ said neighbor Phillip Rhinesmith. “We’re listening three to five hours a day, up to seven days a week.’’
“We are all avid gun owners. We are not against guns or the Second Amendment,’’ said Anne MacKinley. “They didn’t take into consideration what the impact would be in our neighborhood. They didn’t ask. They didn’t care.’’
The Vizzis contend they’ve tried to be harmonious, but the neighbors are unreasonable.
“There is an over-reach and an over-exaggeration,’’ Doree Vizzi said about the neighbors’ concerns. “... I just don’t understand why everybody has been so nasty.’’
She said this after neighbors played to the Planning Commission a social media video showing her daughter firing an AR-15 rifle on the property.
“I don’t think AR-15 shooting is part of the Olympic games,’’ said Planning Commission member Jamie Girardi, who chided the Vizzi family for not wanting to abide by the county rules.
The Planning Commission eventually approved the permit application, but only if the Vizzi family followed a list of county conditions, including conducting a wildlife survey, installing a noise berm and limiting the number of people on the property.
Neither side left happy. Neighbors wanted more restrictive operating hours or an outright rejection. The Vizzis’ attorney, Matt Newton, called the berm requirement cost prohibitive, saying it could amount to an additional expense of between $65,000 and $112,000.
The Pasco County Commission is scheduled to hear the issue at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 5 in Dade City.