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County approves equestrian events with some conditions

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By Jeff M. Hardison

Three equestrian events at two different places and happening over a three-month span received approval from the Levy County Board of County Commissioners on Jan. 8, but the approval includes conditions.

The 90-acre Black Prong Equestrian Center is the sole location for two events, and it was specifically noted that no action related to these special events is to occur at "the annex" for the center.

The first event is called Nature Coast Driving Event Trials. It is set to be on Jan. 19 and 20.

Commissioner Lilly Rooks asked why the application for a special events permit was completed in November, but not brought to the commission to be considered for approval until just 11 days before the event. There was no representative from Black Prong to answer her.

Commissioner John Stevens made a motion to approve the request with a condition that the promoters receive permits from the state, for the part of the event where it would go into Goethe State Forest. The motion also prohibits the use of county roads and rights of way by participants in this special event.

County Zoning Director Rob Corbitt said it might be difficult to delineate riders in the special event from other riders in the area on that weekend.

The second event, the Black Prong Driving Trials on March 15 and 16, also had the requirement to keep it only on Black Prong Equestrian Center property and to keep off county roads and rights of way.

Corbitt said he would have to pay overtime to cover code enforcement on those weekends. County Coordinator Freddie Moody said he felt the people causing this added enforcement should fit the bill. Stevens said the cost should be borne by the offenders only when a special event requires added code enforcement coverage. Commissioner Nancy Bell said she agreed with Stevens.

Complaints related to special events are isolated to Black Prong, Corbitt said.

Renate Cannon, an outspoken member of the public, respectfully requested that the County Commission require special events applicants to meet all deadlines, have all required signatures and insurance before they seek approval from the commission.

There was no response from the commission to her request.

Another event is set to be in February.

It includes horse and buggy riders. Corbitt said horse and buggy enthusiasts have told him there is no law to stop them from using county roads whenever they please.

County Attorney Anne Brown said buggies cause cars to avoid them and move over on the road. She believes a special event permit is required.

Six properties in the Steeplechase Farms subdivision received approval for Florida Whips Carriage Drive on Feb. 15 and 16. There will be 20 or fewer participants and most of them live in the subdivision, Moody said.

The course includes two to three miles of county roads, Corbitt said.

The request was approved conditioned on the applicants obtaining one more required signature and revising insurance, as the county needed it to be amended.