Dania Vizzi wants to use a private skeet shooting range, off Bellamy Brothers Boulevard, to perfect her skeet shooting skills so she can make the U.S. team for the 2020 Olympics.
But, her neighbors say her Olympic quest is causing harm to their agricultural and horse-breeding pursuits, as well as disrupting their rural tranquility and peace of mind.
Those were among the issues aired out at an Oct. 10 Pasco County Commission public hearing on a request filed by Arthur and Doree Vizzi, Dania’s parents.
The 53-acre property is on the west side of Bellamy Brothers Boulevard, about one-half mile east of Johnston Road, said Debbie Hernandez, Pasco County’s zoning administrator.
The skeet shooting range consists of a skeet field made up of shooting stations and two trap houses, Hernandez said.
The county has cited the Vizzi’s for developing the property without obtaining a permit for a conditional use, and the request is an attempt to address that violation.
County planners recommend approval of the request, contingent on several conditions.
During the public hearing, Dania Vizzi, of Odessa, told planning commissioners: “I’m a four-time world championship medalist; two-time national champion; just medaled at the Pan American Games and, as of last week, I am halfway onto the Olympic team for 2020.
“I just really need it (the skeet shooting facility) to train. This is my passion. This is what I love to do. I want to compete for my country as long as I can. I would just love your help with it,” she said.
Matt Newton, an attorney representing the applicants, said before purchasing the property, his clients reached out to the county and understood that as long as the property wasn’t being used for commercial uses, they could practice on the property.
“She practices several hours a day and an interruption of practice can be devastating to her preparation for competitiveness,” Newton said.
Newton said his client would agree to provide more privacy screening to buffer the properties on the north and south, but said the condition for a 20-foot berm is too expensive.
He said based on his research, meeting that condition would cost between $65,000 and $112,000.
Arthur Vizzi told planning commissioners: “We can’t agree to conditions that are beyond our capabilities. They are cost-prohibitive for us.”
Newton said: “The best method of mitigation in our opinion would be to limit the hours.”
His client agrees to no shooting before 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m., and no shooting at all on Sundays, or on Good Friday, Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, the attorney said.
But, neighbors urged planning commissioners to consider the negative impacts they said have resulted from the skeet shooting facility.
“I’m not here to kill somebody’s dreams to be an Olympian. That’s not why I’m here,” said Glenn Stevenson, of 16653 Bellamy Brothers Blvd.
“I find it interesting that they can quote all of these awards, but they haven’t just happened. They happened before they purchased the property, as well. So this property isn’t key for her success as an Olympian,” Stevenson said.
“My business is being impacted negatively. I have lost people who boarded horses with me, that are very expensive brood mares. I run a breeding program. I have a reproduction lab on my farm,” he said.
“Originally, they told me it was going to be two hours a day. It was more like four to five hours, seven days a week.
“I can actually hear it in my house. I am the closest property to their property. I get all of the noise in my house,” he said.
He told planning commissioners he would like the use to be limited to five days a week, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with no shooting on holidays.
Judy Geiger, of 16225 Bellamy Brothers Blvd., lives on the property due south of the Vizzis’ parcel.
“I don’t want this next door to me,” Geiger said.
Beyond noise, she’s worried about contamination.
“The lead stays in the ground,” Geiger said.
She’s worried, too, about a negative impact on property values.
“Who wants to live next to gunfire noise?” she said.
Philip and Robin Rhinesmith, both of 16833 Bellamy Brothers Blvd., were among others voicing objections.
“There have certainly been quality of life impacts,” Philip Rhinesmith said. “It’s not the fact of the shooting. It’s the duration..”
They are also concerned about long-term impacts, he said.
“Typically, firing 250 rounds a day equates to about 15 pounds of lead on the ground. The accumulation over a year’s time could be 5,000 pounds a year,” he said.
Robin Rhinesmith added: “We have three generations of family living on our farm, which we’ve called home for about 50 years.”
The family lives among “beautiful live oak trees and pasture,” but they spend less time outside because of the constant gunfire.
“Using earbuds on the tractor doesn’t even drown it out,” she said.
She also noted that her daughter, a competitive equestrian for years, has stopped “because she doesn’t enjoy training on her own property.”
But, Doree Vizzi told planning commissioners that they bought the property to enable her daughter to train there.
“I do not want to cause problems with my neighbors.
“That’s not our goal.
“I go with my daughter 90% of the time to the range. I pull for her. She only shoots three or four hours by herself.
“There’s an over-reach and an over-exaggeration going on here right now,” she said.
David Goldstein, chief assistant county attorney, told planning commissioners: “The mere discharge of weapons is not something we can regulate because the Legislature told us we can’t. However, we can regulate gun ranges.”
Planning Commissioner Michael Cox said, “by going through this process and having at least some conditions, that would appear to me that it would be an improvement for the surrounding neighbors — specifically the hours of operation that they’re allowed to do it versus all of the time.”
Cox called for approval of the request, contingent on the planning staff’s conditions.
The motion passed and now the issue goes before the Pasco County Commission, which is slated to consider the request at a Nov. 5 public hearing.
Published October 23, 2019