'Enough is Enough': Sinkhole still causing headaches in The Villages

Road still closed, houses still condemned, neighbors going to County Commission

THE VILLAGES, Fla. – Neighbors living around the sinkhole that opened up last year on McLawren Terrace in The Villages will tell Marion County Commissioners Tuesday morning "enough is enough."

Barbara Gaines lives on McAlpin Street, one block from the sinkhole.

Every time it rains, her street is flooded by a gasoline-powered pump installed to move stormwater from the drain blocked by the sinkhole to one that flows freely.

 "The problem is this has gone on since February of 2018," Gaines said.

Neighbors said every time it rains, county workers fire up the pump. Pictures from Monday morning during the height of the rain storm show several inches of standing water on the street.

Tom and Joyce Flavell said they've seen fish swimming on their street in front of their house.

"They had fish out here," Tom Flavell said. "Every time it rains, somebody comes out and turns that pump on to get the water off the street because everything is going down into this drain, so they can pump it to the other drain."

Gaines is worried the regularly pumped stormwater will erode the only remaining access into the neighborhood.

"It's an eyesore, yes, but our main concern is the safety issue because the longer that water is being routed to this street, to more it's overtaxing that," Gaines said. "If that collapses, 75 homes are down here without any egress. We're stuck."

Neighbors said property values have dropped and some owners have had difficulty selling.

"We hadn't planned on selling the house but we'd like it to be our decision but probably couldn't sell it now," Joyce Flavell said.

At the corner of McAlpin Street and McLawren Terrace, the road is still blocked.

Sand fills in much of the hole that opened up in the asphalt.

The two homes evacuated in February 2018 when the first hole opened up still sit vacant with cracks cutting through the stucco-coated concrete block.

"When it rains real hard, I look out there and it looks like a river and it's starting to come up closer and closer and I'm worried about the hurricanes," Joyce Flavell said. "Fourteen months. That's a very long time and we're getting discouraged."

Gaines said a Marion County Government employee called her Monday morning and said the holding company that bought the condemned houses has stabilized the ground beneath one but not the other. The company's permit to finish the work expires at the end of July.

"Tomorrow we're going to say please don't give them extensions and show them pictures to give them a visual of what it's really like out here," Gaines said.

Gaines said the county will not fix the road until the homes are stabilized.

The Marion County Commission meeting begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Gaines expects the opportunity to begin speaking to the commission around 10 a.m.

Commissioners will not vote but only take public comment on Tuesday.

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