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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Planning board approves winery-cooperage

Published:   |   Updated: January 13, 2014 at 06:14 PM

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BROOKSVILLE - Deanna Moose moved to Cedar Lane outside the city of Brooksville because of the rural scenery, the silence and lack of congestion.

She worries all of that may soon end now that a Hungarian family plans to build a winery-cooperage across the street from her home.

Moose and about two dozen others who live near the proposed site appealed to planning and zoning commissioners Monday to reject a special exception use permit allowing the operation on 13.1 acres at 7029 Cedar Lane, south of Cortez Boulevard.

After two hours of discussion, planning and zoning members voted unanimously to approve the permit, albeit with eight performance conditions that restrict the owners of the winery to certain hours and site operations.

After listening to staffers and assurances from owners they would be good neighbors, board member John Scharch said he was satisfied this would bring jobs, be an asset to the community and not be as detrimental as some believe.

"I certainly agree with the fears that the residents have but I don't see any way that we can deny these people because they meet the letter of the code," Scharch said. "I don't think it's going to have an impact."

But many in the audience still seemed determined to block the winery-cooperage and it is likely they will appeal the decision to a higher authority - the county commission.

County board members will find the planning and zoning decision on their Jan. 28 agenda under correspondence to note. A commissioner can pull the item off for discussion on his own or from an appeal from the public. But even then, it would take a majority vote of the commission to decide if it will be reheard,

Residents' concerns all focused on the same issues: noise, traffic congestion, people walking around drunk on wine, a loss of property values and the loss of rural tranquility.

As Theresa Frensley told planning and zoning Chairman Robert Widmar: "How would you like that right next to your home?"

"I choose privacy," Frensley said. "I love the woods. I think it's a wonderful thing she (the operator of the winery) is doing. But not in our neighborhood."

Anna Kallai, along with daughter Krisztina and husband Sandor, tried to assuage residents' fears and said they would strive to be good neighbors.

Kallai said it would be a family-friendly operation where people could stop by for high-quality wine samples and see the inner workings of wine barrel making. She anticipated about 100 visitors a day and that special events - such as weddings - would be kept to a minimum.

"This is not going to be a bar," Anna Kallai said. "This is going to be a very expensive, upscale place where people can enjoy."

Kallai said her cooperage will look more like a family home than a factory. And, out of consideration for the neighbors, she only plans to stay open to the public Friday through Sunday.

"No noise will go out from the buildings to disturb any of the neighbors," she said.

The combined winery-cooperage will employ about 35 people when it reaches full start-up, Kallai said.

Daughter Krisztina Kallai said visitors will only get one ounce of wine during tastings.

"No one is going to get drunk," she said.

Planning and zoning commissioners agreed on the following stipulations:

? The public will only be allowed to visit the facility for tastings from 10 a.m. to one hour after sunset.

? All outdoor lighting, except security lighting, must be shut off one hour after closing

? The cooperage must be properly insulated to reduce sound. Outdoor music will be acoustic and no amplifiers allowed.

? There must be automatic cut-off lighting to prevent intrusion into neighboring properties.

? The Kallais must hold an open house for the neighbors to satisfy any other concerns

Still, some residents seemed prepared to petition their county commissioners to revisit the issue.

Resident Debra Grimes said the Kallais should set up operation at the industrial park by the airport where the property is already zoned.

"They can do it there with my blessing," Grimes said.

Assistant County Administrator for Planning & Development Ron Pianta said staff recommended approval because the operation seems compatible with the rural area and doesn't believe the impact will be that severe.

However, Pianta said it might have been a good idea to arrange a meeting with neighbors and the Kallais before Monday's hearing so any concerns could have been addressed and more information gotten out about the project.

Still, Scharch said it is up to residents to find out what possible uses properties near them can be used for when they move to a certain site.

"I did my due diligence when I bought my property and found out what could be built there," Scharch said.

County Commissioner Diane Rowden, County Administrator Len Sossamon and Economic Development Supervisor Valerie Pianta are supporting the Kallai's proposal and have called it an example of the kind of agricultural tourism-based projects that Hernando County wants to encourage.

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