BROOKSVILLE - The Hernando County Planning Commission on Monday approved a special exception use permit for a commercial, organic farm south of Brooksville.
Applicants Felicia Dellea and Santos Reyes said the organic farm will be about three acres at 6376 California Street, and will contain two initial hothouses, or enclosed structures where the produce will be grown.
"There's a growing demand for organic farmers," Dellea said. "It would be a convenient, air conditioned store open six days a week."
Reyes said if the two initial hothouses are successful, they would like to add another four to the property. Reyes also said he hopes to have the organic farm operational as soon as possible, and that the hours of operation will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"We feel this would be a great asset to the community," Reyes said.
Planning Director Ron Pianta said although the board is considering a special exception use permit, the underlying zoning for the property is agricultural.
A resident across the street from the organic farm site, Liz Benson, spoke in opposition to the farm, saying she has concerns about the safety of her well water with possible run-off.
"I didn't hear anything about pesticides and whether they will be used or not," Benson said. "Are they going to have dumpsters, rat problems, mosquitoes, or horse flies? And how are we going to deal with that? I've already had to leave my home several times because of burning."
Dellea said the pesticides used are also organic, and are not harmful to humans or the environment.
"Everything will be safe that we're using for the business, for the plants to grow," Dellea said. "There's no runoff with these (hothouses), so that wouldn't be an issue."
Reyes added that he will be living on the property, and intends to have a wooden sign with no lights for the farm.
A report by Planning and Zoning staff shows the farm poses no harm to the public.
Dellea said the farm will sell fruits and vegetables, will have employees, as well as a fruit stand.
Dellea also said the store will provide a convenient alternative to local farmers' markets and some grocery stores, and her employees will be able to keep the produce fresh in a cool storage area.
Dellea previously cited a study by Lunanne Lohr of the University of Georgia, who found that counties with higher numbers of organic farmers have stronger farm and local economies.