of The Villages News
By Larry D. Croom
Published October 19, 2018
Supervisors in Community Development District 4 learned
several things Friday about the ongoing sinkhole issue in the Village of Calumet
Grove – none of which they considered good news.
District Manager Richard Baier shared a letter he’d receive
from the Marion County Board of Supervisors regarding two homes on McLawren
Terrace that were decimated by sinkholes in the early-morning hours of Feb. 15
and again in May.
Baier said the District has been pushing for action that would lead to ground
stabilization around the damaged homes so crews can begin to assess the damaged
to the closed street in front of the homes and the stormwater drain pipe that
runs between the two properties.
But Baier said the letter indicates that Marion County officials apparently
believe they’ve done their part by ordering residents Doris Morrill and Frank
and Jan Neumann from their ravaged homes. The letter points out that there were
three options on the properties – repair, vacation or demolition. And it says
that having the Villagers vacate their homes satisfies the requirements of the
county’s Building Abatement Code.
The letter also said that both homeowners still have time to
remedy the situations with their properties. It claims that the sale of
Morrill’s home, which is owned by an estate, is imminent, so “we have taken a
position to postpone taking further action to remedy the violation until the
property ownership has been conveyed.” When that happens, the letter adds, the
new property owner will be served with a notice about the unsafe structure on
Frank and Jan Neumann’s home on McLawren Terrace has been
vacated since the early morning of Feb. 15, when a series of sinkholes
plagued the Calumet Grove neighborhood.
Finally, the letter claims that gauges installed on the homes after the
sinkholes opened up in February shows that there’s been “minimal movement,” with
one instrument showing a .335-inch shift. So the county doesn’t plan to install
any other gauges to detect shifting in the structures, the letter adds.
But Baier and outgoing CDD 4 Board Chairman Paul Kelly argue Marion County
officials are missing the point. Both agreed that the main issue now should be
getting the property stabilized.
In July, three reports – two geotechnical and one structural
– all made it quite clear that Morrill’s home and the lot it sits on are quite
unstable and dangerous at best. And two of the reports said her home isn’t
salvageable and must come down.
The letter from Marion County, however, states that its Unsafe Building
Abatement Code applies only to structures, not the “ground conditions” on the
property they are located on.
Apparently, both Morrill and the Neumanns have no intention of returning to
their homes in the future and both are hoping to sell to a company that
purchases damaged houses. And he reiterated that he would like to see Marion
County do some preliminary ground stabilization and put more monitors on the
homes to show how much they are shifting.
CDD 4 supervisors made it clear that they want the issue in their district taken
care of as soon as possible. They pointed out that the sinkholes already have
cost them more than $560,000 and the problem is creating massive anxiety for
residents in the Calumet Grove neighborhood. And they said their biggest concern
is the public safety issues caused by the unstable structures, the large
sinkholes in the yards – one right outside the Neumann’s lanai door is at least
35 feet deep – and the obvious unstable ground conditions that exist on the two
A section of McLawren Terrace remains closed in the
Village of Calumet Grove following sinkhole activity in the neighborhood
in February and May.
District Counsel Valerie Fuchs said the District is preparing
to send Marion County a response to its letter and that legal action may be the
only recourse. Baier agreed and then warned supervisors that both Morrill and
the Neumanns have hinted at filing suit against CDD 4 over the entire sinkhole
Meanwhile, on Friday afternoon, the crack in the front of Morrill’s home clearly
appears to have gotten bigger in the past couple of months. Her yard is
completely overgrown with weeds and tall grass. And the roadway in front of both
of the damaged home remains closed – which is continuing to be a huge concern to
the frazzled residents who live in the area and are in fear of further sinkhole
activity and the likelihood of declining property values.