DADE CITY — A proposed snow park in rural Pasco County overcame a squall of opposition Tuesday and is forecast to open in winter 2020.
After an hour-long public hearing, Pasco County commissioners unanimously approved a conditional use permit, giving BB Agritourism and Saint Joe Ranch permission to operate the amusement park in an agricultural district. The park will be at the corner of St. Joe Road and Bellamy Brothers Boulevard, west of Dade City.
At the close of 2018, BB Agritourism purchased 58 acres, just west of the TreeHoppers location, for $584,400. The undeveloped land will house the snow park that is still being designed. It is projected to include a snow tubing run up to 300 feet long and potentially 100 to 200 feet wide, and a separate area to play and build snow sculptures.
The county permit allows the snow park to operate up to 120 days annually, but "something tells me, it's going to be more like 45 days,'' said the owners' attorney, Clarke Hobby.
The snow park also would not operate simultaneously to the Scream-A-Geddon haunted house attraction, which runs 56 days each fall.
To appease neighbors' concerns, the companies promised to plant as many as 1,000 red cedar trees as a buffer, not build within 400 feet of Bellamy Brothers Boulevard and use St. Joe Road as its entrance and exit. Twelve nearby neighbors wrote letters saying they didn't oppose the plan.
Still, other residents objected, saying the park — and the noise and traffic it would create — contradicted the county's land plan that provides extra protections against sprawl in the rural area east of Bellamy Brothers Boulevard.
"Just think about it, a snow mountain and a haunted house are certainly not consistent with the surrounding area,'' said planning consultant Robert Hunter of Plant City, who was retained by neighbor Judy Geiger.
"It's like having the county fair on the street where you live for two months,'' said Stephen Gonzalez of St. Joe Road. "It wouldn't be on your street where you (commissioners) live.''
But commissioners said they were satisfied with the accommodations by the park owner, Benjamin Nagengast, CEO of Point Summit.
"TreeHoppers kept its rural flavor ... and I have no doubt the snow park will do the same,'' said Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.
Florida's climate is not considered an insurmountable obstacle to a snow park. A similar attraction, Snow Mountain, opened more than a decade ago near Atlanta at Stone Mountain, Ga. Another warm weather location, Dell'Osso Family Farms in Stockton, Calif., offers seasonal snow tube rides for a three-week period in December and January.
Nagengast said the Florida snow park more likely would follow the Dell'Osso model, operating a weather-dependent schedule after Halloween and focusing on the schools' winter breaks.
"The limited window makes it appealing. It's a once-a-year thing,'' said Nagengast.
Point Summit opened TreeHoppers in 2015 and Scream-A-Geddon later the same year. The company operates similar zip line and seasonal haunted house attractions in Anderson, Indiana.
Contact C.T. Bowen at email@example.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.