of The Villages News
By Staff Report
Published January 3, 2019
The top story of the year roared to life in the early morning
hours of Feb. 15 when sinkholes opened up on McLawren Terrace in the Village of
Two houses were ravaged and their occupants – Doris Morrill
and Frank and Jan Neumann – were forced to quickly flee their properties. And
the situation was made even worse in May when a second round of sinkholes hit
the area and collapsed a portion of McLawren Terrace.
In May, Smithsonian Magazine declared, “The Villages is a hotbed of sinkholes.”
In July, Morrill’s residence and property were deemed unlivable and unstable,
prompting District Manager Richard Baier to say it was unsafe to make repairs
until the ground around the damaged homes was stabilized. And frazzled residents
expressed frustrations about the ongoing situation and falling property values.
Today, the decimated homes remain vacant and the roadway in front of them
closed. Morrill’s house has been sold, while the Neumanns are in a standoff with
their insurance company over the value of their home. And despite the objections
of angry neighbors and District officials who weren’t allowed to speak at a Dec.
12 Marion County Code Enforcement Board hearing, the Neumanns have until March
26 to get their property stabilized and begin making repairs to the house they
have no intention of living in again.
Yellow crime scene tape blocked access to a large
sinkhole on McLawren Terrace in the Village of Calumet Grove.
Baier had hoped to show the code enforcement board proof that
a public safety issue exists in the neighborhood. And he had planned to explain
that no work can be done to repair the stormwater pipeline between the homes and
the damaged roadway until the ground on both properties is stabilized.
All told, the sinkholes will cost Community Development
District 4 about $900,000, which played a big part in a 20 percent increase in
maintenance assessment fees. And CDD 4 is prepping for a potential lawsuit
against the Neumanns and the company that purchased Morrill’s home.
Cracks expanded at one of the sinkhole-damaged homes on