Baseball school strikes out on permit

The Pasco County Planning Commission has denied a special exception request by Ryan A. and Elizabeth J. Prior for a private baseball and softball school in Wesley Chapel.

The request was to allow the private school on a 5-acre property, 320 feet south of the intersection of Hadlock Drive and Elkmont Lane.

It is surrounded by several agricultural uses, which include boarding stables, several equine veterinarians, some other horse stables, and agricultural uses, including single-family dwellings.

Attorney Barbara Wilhite represented the Priors during a planning commission public hearing and Cynthia Spidell, a planner for King Engineering, outlined the proposed use.

The applicants had agreed to a number of conditions.

They agreed to limit the hours of operation; limit to 20 the number of students who could be there on a daily basis, and no more than four at a time; required road maintenance; prohibited glare from lights; and, a number of other conditions.

The county’s planning staff recommended approval of the request.

But, neighbors objected.

Allison Doucette, an attorney representing opponents to the request, said the 15-foot-wide gravel road leading to the site “is really not intended to service any kind of commercial business.”

She said her clients own the horse farm that surrounds the proposed site of the baseball school, and they regularly cross over the easement with their horses.

Neighbor Fred Byrd, of 29439 Hadlock Drive, also objected.

“I don’t want Mr. Prior fixing that road.

“If that road is smooth, we’re going to have people doing 30, 40 miles an hour down that little easement. It’s not safe,” he said.

Besides the neighbors’ horses, Byrd said, “We’ve got a granddaughter. There’s animals out there. There’s dogs and cats.”

Besides the safety issue, dust kicked up by motorists is a problem, too, he said.

“When it’s dry, and the amount of traffic that goes by, if we leave our bedroom window open, our bedroom is covered with dust,” he said.

If the baseball school is approved and there are violations, he doesn’t believe that Code Enforcement would be able to put an end to the problem.

“Code Enforcement basically lived out in this area with all of the problems we had with the prior baseball ranch. They were operating illegally. They were asked to stop. They continued. They were asked to stop. They continued. There were numerous violations.

“Code Enforcement was out there and it didn’t stop them before,” Byrd said.

He also noted that not all of the proposed site is usable. “Half of it is back in a cypress head and part of it is a pond,” he said.

Byrd said he has nothing against baseball.

“I love baseball. I played baseball. I coached baseball.

“There’s a proper place for it. This is an equine community,” Byrd said.

Planning commissioners denied the request, but the applicants have the right to appeal that decision to the Pasco County Commission, if they should choose to do so.

Published March 06, 2019

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