DADE CITY — The family of Olympic hopeful Dania Vizzi has dropped its bid for a permit to operate a controversial skeet shooting range in rural east Pasco.
The family’s Tampa attorney, Matt Newton, notified the county of the decision about 75 minutes before the start of a scheduled public hearing in front of the Pasco County Commission. The move came after the county and the Vizzis couldn’t reach an accord on the conditions under which the range could operate.
Newton argued last month before the appointed Pasco County Planning Commission that a county requirement for a sound-muffling berm was cost prohibitive.
Vizzi, 24, of Odessa in Hillsborough County, is 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.
She has said she trained six days a week by firing a 12-gauge shotgun at clay pigeons in two-shot increments from 25 locations. The shooting is on family-owned land west of Bellamy Brothers Boulevard in the rural enclave of Darby. But the county said the family built the range without obtaining county approval, known as a conditional-use permit.
Vizzi’s 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, 2018, for developing the site without permission, but the Vizzis have been allowed to continue using the range since they applied for the permit.
By withdrawing the application for the conditional-use permit, the family again could be considered in violation of county codes if they use the range as they had before. At the Planning Commission hearing, Newton said the family may rely on a portable low-to-the-ground tripod to launch the targets instead of using the structures the county said were built illegally.
Efforts to reach Newton for comment weren’t immediately successful.
"I didn’t think it was good land planning in the first place,'' said Nancy Hazelwood of Blanton, who noted the proposed shooting range was next to a horse ranch.
"That guy was going to be put out of business,'' she said. "I’m glad to hear that news, and I’m hoping they’re not coming back. Shooting is allowed in our area, but putting a man out of business is another matter.''
At the Planning Commission hearing, Glenn Stevenson, owner of GS Arabians International, testified the noise from the shooting range had harmed his horse-breeding business because boarders had taken their animals elsewhere. Other neighbors raised environmental and safety concerns.
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The Planning Commission recommended the range be permitted if the family followed the county’s proposed conditions, including the berm and rules establishing hours of operation and limiting the number of people who could be on the range at one time.
"At this point, you‘d have to assume they have given up their quest for entitlements,'’ County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder told commissioners.