BROOKSVILLE — Hernando’s Planning and Zoning Commission soon will hear the next round in a 20-year battle between landowners in a quiet part of the county, and the question of what uses are appropriate and allowable in an agricultural area.
Kym Rouse Holzwart and her husband, John M. Holzwart, own Spotted Dance Ranch in a rural part of Hernando County north of Cortez Boulevard and west of I-75.
It’s a quiet place, heavily forested in some areas, with numerous farms that feature equine training areas, stables and a dog grooming and training business. It’s an outdoors style of life, with large and beautiful houses, some unpaved roads that require a slow drive to avoid vehicle damage and paths through some very dense forests.
Randy Yoho owns 26.5 acres in two tracts formerly used to mine sand. He’s owned them since 2000 and his attempts to use the land as motocross track or a landfill have drawn opposition from his neighbors. He’s seeking a special-use exception from the county, and his neighbors are opposed to it.
Attempts to contact Yoho, the principal of Out of Bounds Inc., of San Antonio, Florida, were unsuccessful, and the voice mailbox was full. Messages were left for Yoho’s attorney, Leonard H. Johnson, but he did not reply.
Yoho was not at his motocross facility at the Pasco County Fairgrounds in Dade City when an attempt was made to contact him there.
At a Feb. 9 meeting of the Hernando County Commission, he asked for and received a rezoning of his parcels comprising 26.5 acres of land from mining to agricultural over the written objection of numerous residents of the area, and the verbal objection of Kym Holzwart. In July, Yoho and Johnson also met with about 40 residents regarding the plans for the land.
The vote to approve the zoning change was 4-0, with Commissioner Jeff Holcomb absent.
Yoho’s 10-acre piece of land to the west of one of the tracts was not included in the rezoning. It allows access to the bigger tracts through a gate off Wildlife Lane. That road bends to the right before the gate, and runs past several properties, including the Holzwarts’ on the right, and the Fannins’ on the left.
Kym Rouse Holzwart doesn’t consider the rezoning a defeat because she and her neighbors couldn’t argue against the change in zoning from mining to agriculture. Their objection is with a special use exception permit, for which Yoho has applied.
She also alleges that Yoho didn’t try to change the zoning of the 10-acre tract to avoid having her contacted as an affected landowner.
“The reason we (residents of the neighborhood) all got up in arms is because we knew what is next,” she said.
That would be the special use exception permit, which Yoho has filed for with the county’s Planning & Zoning Commission. The hearing is at 9 a.m. Sept. 13 and the decision is final, but there is a 30-day appeal period in which the County Commission could review the decision.
Laura Estep lives near the Holzwarts, and said she and family bought their home in the area to escape “the Tampa rush.”
“We’re all feeling threatened. Our property values would be going down,” she said, adding that unlike her neighbors, she doesn’t have a business to worry about.
Judy Fannin, a neighbor whose property is directly west of Yoho’s, said she and her husband, Larry, have lived there for 40 years, and they have a business in which they taught riding and put on equestrian shows.
“We’ve been fighting Mr. Yoho for quite a number of years,” she said.
“He did the motorcycle racing quite some time ago and it was horrible,” Judy Fannin said. “You couldn’t talk if you were outside while they were going on. You had to yell at each other and you might be only 4 feet apart.”
The noise could startle a horse and cause someone to be hurt, she said.
At the Feb. 9 County Commission meeting, Yoho laid out his version of events.
“When we bought the property, we thought we were going to run a motorcycle track,” he said.
He said he was trying to be a good neighbor, trying to keep up with the county’s requirements and trying to use his land for riding motorcycles.
“I have rode motorcycles on that property for 15 years, ever since we owned it,” Yoho told the commissioners, and he said when he was told he needed a mobile home there, he bought a $60,000 mobile home and put it there.
“We’ve been riding ever since, on that property. That’s why you see the tracks there,” he said.
And when he was issued a citation to cease riding, he stopped riding.
He said he tried to have a landfill on the site for construction debris, and again, he said, the neighbors stopped him.
The commissioners seemed sympathetic to Yoho’s position.
“That’s called ‘Not in my backyard.’ We hear it all the time. All the time,” Commissioner Wayne Dukes said. “You can’t make them happy. We’ve told some of them a few times, ‘You should have bought the property yourself.’ I think what you’re trying to do is fine.”
Commissioner Steve Champion agreed.
“If they are unhappy about it, they should have bought the land,” he said. “Property rights means something.”
Kym Rouse Holzwart says that Yoho’s land borders a 2,600-acre area, the Croom Motorcycle Area at Withlacoochee State Forest, where motorcyclists can ride through a forest. She and her neighbors say they have no problem with that because they can’t hear the noise from the motorcycles in the forest, and it is not a problem for the rural business owners or their equine raising and training operations.
It’s when Yoho’s land is used for motorcycle racing activities that the noise becomes intolerable, the neighbors say.
Yoho expressed frustration at the Feb. 9 meeting.
“Remember, the property borders Croom Motorcycle Park on two sides and the honey reserve on the other side. There’s motorcycles going along this park all day long, seven days a week,” he said.
“Every time I go to do the landfill, we have neighbors. Every time I go to do the motocross track, we have the neighbors. They say they want a landfill when I try to do a motocross track; when I try to put a motocross track, they want a landfill,” he said.
“I’ve been very compliant. When I got the citation, I quit every activity.”
He said he’s donated money to Christian schools and allowed the National Guard to use the property for helicopter training.
With the special exception, he said, he’d regulate the hours of use and the number of motorcycles allowed on the site.
At the July meeting between residents, Yoho and Johnson, Yoho said the facility would not be open to the public and he would only allow seven riders at a time, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., five days a week.
“I bought this property to use it,” he told the people at the meeting. “I’ve been overly nice to the neighbors, and I haven’t lied to you one time,” adding, “We’re trying to be as neighbor-friendly as we can be.”
He tried to assure the neighbors that today’s motorcycles are a lot quieter than the ones from years ago, and that professional bikes are held to a different noise standard.
“It’s my life. It’s what I do,” Yoho said when asked if it was a hobby or a business. “I was a racer when I was a kid. My kids raced professionally. My grandson’s come along now.
“We’re not changing what we’ve done already.”
Several neighbors said they plan on attending the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Sept. 13 and have an attorney to represent them.
“There’s nothing we can do,” Larry Fannin said, if Yoho gets his permit.
“He will drive a lot of us country folks out,” Judy Fannin said.