Twenty-eight rolling acres on Snow Hill Rd in Brooksville is the site of a proposed winery. Mr. Joseph Sparacia, applied for a special exception use permit, but was denied by the Planning and Zoning Commission on October 13, 2014. Although it was denied by P&Z, the special exception permit could be granted by the Board of County Commissioners. They had the choice to review the application or not and they chose to review at the December 9th meeting.
At the December 9th BOCC meeting, the public was informed that Joe Mason, the lawyer representing the petitioner submitted an application for postponement within the necessary time frame and the issue will be delayed until March 10, 2015. The matter must be completely readvertised but will not go back to the P&Z Commission unless the applicant makes changes to the application, making it more intense. Mr. Sparacia has a real estate contract on the property which will be void if the special exception use permit is not passed.
At the October meeting, the application was met with disapproval from many of the nearby neighbors. Their concerns included pesticide and fungicide pollution of nearby artesian springs, noise and light from events, and roadway hazards. Particularly they worried that drivers who had consumed alcohol at the winery would pose a risk on the narrow hilly roadway. Julie Whelan, a Snow Hill Road resident told Hernando Sun that her primary concern is that her son has to walk a mile to his bus stop on Snow Hill Rd. and believes the traffic risks would increase. Her husband Paul Whelan said that he is not against the winery. He supports farming and agriculture, but is against the increased traffic and the commercial activities of the winery.
Mr. Selph, representing the petitioner agreed with certain restrictions placed on winery activities including the specified hours of operation, prohibition of amplified music, additional buildings requiring an amendment to the special exception use and outdoor events open to the public requiring an administrative special event permit from the County Zoning Supervisor. Mr. Selph explained that no additional buildings were needed at that time since wine would be produced in existing structures or off site. He also said that the primary use of the property would be to grow grapes with limited events for wine tastings. The product would be mainly marketed off site, not dependent on the number of visitors to the winery.
When questioned by Comm. Qureshi about what is being approved in the special exception use permit, Mr. Pianta explained that the vineyard is permitted by right since it is zoned AG, but the winery itself, associated activities, and special event requests would require the special exception permit.
The P&Z Commission could have further restricted the winery activities. Chairman Widmar asked Mr. Selph if he would consider decreasing the commercial aspects of the winery, but Mr. Selph replied that it had already been significantly reduced and they “needed the opportunity to showcase the winery operation and wanted to offer small events.”
Comm. Communale moved to deny the Special Exception Use Permit, concluding it was not in the public interest. Commissioner Qureshi seconded the motion. Commissioners Communale, Scharch Sr. and Quresshi voted Aye. Commissioner Riley voted Nay.