WEEKI WACHEE (FOX 13) - A Hernando County property owner who wants to turn his land into a gun range is facing an uphill battle after the planning and zoning commission denied his re-zoning request Monday.
Christopher Russo wants to use his 3.75 acres of land in Weeki Wachee, near the Glen Lakes community, for an outdoor shooting range and gun shop. But the zoning would have to be changed from agricultural use to recreational.
The planning and zoning commission unanimously voted to turn down the request.
"I knew this was going to happen today. It's pretty one-sided," Russo said afterward.
Russo has faced staunch opposition from neighbors in the Glen Lakes gated subdivision, along with homeowners in some of the other surrounding areas. They packed into the meeting to voice their concerns.
"Some of the homes there are less than half a mile away. Ranges of the weapons that will be used on this rifle range obviously exceed half a mile," said David Lopez, an attorney for the Glen Lakes community.
"We here as senior citizens, live in our senior citizen parks [and] deserve to be able to have a quiet community where we can live in safety," added Bonnie Keith, who lives in the Countryside Village Mobile Home Park.
Commissioners voiced many of those same concerns.
Russo, however, said he's made thorough safety plans and called the meeting a "lynch mob."
"It's the David and Goliath story. The needs of the many out-weigh the needs of the few or the one," he told FOX 13. "What about my needs? What about my family's needs? How do I feed them?"
Russo will take his proposal to the Hernando County Commission in December, and he hopes commissioners will give his proposal a go-ahead.
If not, Russo is already planning to take legal action against just about everyone who has opposed him.
"If they want to play hard ball, we'll play hard ball," he said. "It's going to end up in federal court. Worst case scenario: I'm still going to do what I want to do out there privately. You can't stop people from shooting on their own land. If I want to invite 100 friends out every weekend at my own expense and let them shoot? Fine. That's what I will do."
Previously, Russo had reportedly cited a Florida law that gives the state all control over gun regulations. Under that law, any local official who violates it could face a fine or removal from office. Russo, however, had no comment about that following Monday's meeting.