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The Villages
Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Residents pack Villages meeting over problematic pond drained by repeated sinkholes

Phillip Hays served as a spokesman for the Alhambra residents. He showed a sign that has been on display at his home, demanding action.

Village of Alhambra residents packed Friday morning’s Community Development District 2 Board of Supervisors meeting, angry over a problematic pond drained repeatedly by sinkholes.

“The pristine pond is gone and now we have a mud hole,” said Phillip Hays, a 13-year resident of the Village of Alhambra, speaking up for his numerous neighbors who forced staffers to rush and find more chairs to accommodate the large crowd.

Hays brought with him to the meeting a sign that has been on display in his yard that asks, “As a property owner I have to meet Villages Standards on my property. So why does The Villages not have to meet same standards on taking care of our pond?”

Residents said there have been 18 sinkholes at Lago De Leon. Hurricane Irma prompted numerous sinkholes that drained the pond. But the sinkholes have been frequently occurring through the years.

Tom Clark, president of the Alhambra Social Club, said his biggest concern has been home values. He pointed out that some owners paid $32,000 extra for the privilege of living on the pond.

Lago De Leon has been drained by a series of sinkholes in the Village of Alhambra.

“With this pond being completely empty and an eyesore, our home values are going down the toilet,” Clark said.

Colette Marini said her mother worked “very hard” during her life, paid the $32,000 premium and now is bedridden. The daughter said she can’t even “pull up the blinds” to allow her mother to see “the view” for which she paid. Marini teared up when she described her mother’s predicament. She echoed Clark’s fears about falling home values and said she doubted they’d ever reclaim the value of the home.

Residents claimed one house is uninhabitable because of sinkholes and the grass behind the house is now waist high.   

Sam Wartinbee of District Property Management confirmed the sinkhole formed on the night of July 25 or day of July 26. He was away on vacation and admitted that his staff did not report the sinkhole “as they should have.”

Testing with ground penetrating radar was to begin Friday. Results from the testing should come back next week, Wartinbee said. It is expected that the engineering firm doing the testing will make a recommendation about what to do next at the problematic pond.

Supervisor Bryan Lifsey pointed out that ponds in the older sections of The Villages do not have the membrane lining as in the newer sections. The board previously had considered putting in a lining, but decided the price was too high.

Village of Alhambra residents packed the District Office board room.

Lifsey asked Wartinbee how much has been spent through the years on repairs at the pond. Wartinbee said he did not know the total, but cited repairs that cost $7,500 and $11,000. Supervisor Marty Rothbard followed up and asked that the cost of all of the repairs be totaled up and communicated back to the board.

Supervisor Barton Zoellner feared “astronomical” costs of repairs, such as the more than half million dollar hit being felt in Community Development District 4 after sinkholes struck in February in the Village of Calumet Grove.

District Manager Richard Baier said it would be important to gather all of the information before making a decision.

Hays had a warning for the board.

“We are done with Band-Aid approaches. There’s more sinkholes coming,” he said.

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