Washout-eroded cliff in DeLand creeps closer to homes

30-to-40-foot drop moving closer to homes in Saddlebrook neighborhood

DeLAND, Fla. – Several homeowners in Volusia County are anxiously watching a huge cliff form behind their house.

It’s happening in the Saddlebrook neighborhood off Blue Lake Avenue in DeLand. The cliff is being called a washout since it keeps eroding from rain. With each rainstorm, it’s inching closer to the homes.

“It looks just like a nice little grassy hill until you get right up close and by then it’s almost too late because of all the erosion,” said homeowner Tabitha Ruge.

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It’s about a 30-to-40-foot drop sitting behind her house. She and the other homeowners not only worry about their backyards and homes falling in but without signs or fencing warning about it, think someone could get hurt.

With every rainfall, Ruge said it gets deeper and wider.

“It was about 70 feet from the corner of our property. We are now to about 20 feet from the corner of our property where I have four kids and pets that I am petrified are going to get outside of our backyard fence that we had to put up,” she said.

Ruge’s house is one of four properties that sit on the cliff.

She showed News 6 photos that show it used to be a hill with a concrete water runoff. She said they started noticing the issues in 2020 but it really started eroding in 2021.

Area before erosion started endangering homes. (Tabitha Ruge)

“We kept asking, ‘What’s going on?’ We were told that with the community that we were in the lawsuit with the builder and that it was being addressed,” she said.

Court records showed the Saddlebrook Homeowners Association filed a lawsuit against the builder about this and other issues in 2020. The lawsuit was resolved and dismissed last fall though and a settlement was reached outside of court.

An HOA representative said they are putting out bids for the work now, but these homeowners have been told they’re also going to have to pick up some of the cost to fix it.

“We have no idea what the resolution was from it, who’s going to pay to fix this. At one point we were told in an HOA meeting that it might be an $80 increase in all of our HOA fees,” Ruge said.

Ruge said she and her neighbors now can only hope that work gets picked up and started soon because a timeline hasn’t been given.

“When are they going to get their bids back, how long is this going to take to get fixed? Hurricane season is right around the corner,” she said. “We’re just waiting. Every storm that comes through I’m just petrified.”

News 6 also reached out to DeLand city officials to see if they would be involved in fixing the problem. A spokesperson sent the following statement:

“The city has been aware of this issue for over a year and staff has been in contact with the Saddlebrook Homeowner’s Association. The land and infrastructure in question is private property and it will be the HOA’s responsibility to fix it. However, the city is available to provide guidance and connect the HOA with resources that could help find a permanent solution to the problem.”

City of DeLand

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About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.