BROOKSVILLE - Bonnie McDonald told planning and zoning commissioners Monday she would have brought more supporters of her dog training facility with her to their meeting if she had known she was facing a "lynch mob."
"I just never have felt so much hate for no reason in my life," McDonald said as she explained to the P&Z board that her neighbors' animosity and fears were unfounded.
McDonald, flanked by her husband William and son John, told commissioners they want to be good neighbors and have no intentions of destroying the neighborhood on Hayman Road.
After 90 minutes of discussion and citizen interaction, planning and zoning commissioners voted unanimously to issue the McDonalds a conditional use permit allowing them to hold events on their 21-acre property off Hayman Road, north of Brooksville.
The McDonalds already operate a dog training facility on their property. But they requested a permit so that they could bring in people from throughout the country to attend dog testing and other canine-type events. Many of those people would come in RVs and so the McDonalds' wanted permission for them to stay overnight.
Residents all had the same concerns: too much noise, too many RVs on narrow Hayman Road, too many dogs barking, people drinking too much alcohol and wandering on their properties.
Several asked the McDonalds' why they couldn't rent space at the Hernando County Fairgrounds for these dog events.
At the end, planning members compromised and made some performance stipulations which they believe address some of the neighbors' concerns. The couple will be limited to six RV events per year, instead of eight.
The board limited the hours of operation for these events to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
They also asked the McDonalds' to arrange a meeting with residents to see if other concerns could be addressed in an informal setting.
Planning Commissioner Thomas Comunale joked that people meet for coffee and don't bring shotguns.
The permit is good for two years and during that time, the county can see how the operation goes and perhaps expand the number of events at the property, the board members said.
Sheila Fayer said she moved to the area to be close to wildlife. But ever since the McDonalds moved in three years ago, she's had to put up with sounds from a loudspeaker, constantly barking dogs and cheering.
And that is without the special events that McDonald wants to bring into the neighborhood, she said.
"These people do not belong in our neighborhood," Fayer said of the RVers, "I cannot understand why this can't take place elsewhere."
Resident John Fayer said these events will draw "riffraff" who will wander on his property.
But resident Jody Hill, who lives a mile from the existing dog training facility, said she visited the site a few weeks ago and was impressed by the good manners of all involved.
"I thought it was just incredibly impressive," Hill said. "They are presenting an opportunity for our seniors to exercise their dogs and get enjoyment."
John McDonald supported his parents in their endeavor and said the family has tried to meet with neighbors and put to rest any concerns.
McDonald assured the crowd there will be no alcohol served, all troublemakers would be dealt with and ushered off the grounds and that the nose would be kept low.
But, he said, "as property owners, we have property rights too."