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The Villages
Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Sinkholes open up in front yard of Villages home following storm drain cleaning

Two sinkholes have opened up in the front yard of a home in the Village of Winifred, following a recent large-scale cleaning of the storm drains in the neighborhood. And an area of sunken grass between the two appears as if it could open and lead to a third sinkhole.

Sinkholes opened up recently in the front yard of a home owned by Carol Thomas at 733 Winifred Way in the Village of Winifred.

The two sinkholes are located in the front yard of a house owned by Carol Thomas at 733 Winifred Way. The largest is on the north side and underneath the Designer home’s driveway. It appears to be about four feet deep and a large area of grass-covered ground can be seen down inside the hole. And that sinkhole extends well underneath Thomas’ driveway, which already is showing minor damage.

The second sinkhole, which is smaller in diameter, is about 15 to 20 feet away on the south side of the property, bordering the neighbor’s yard. The sunken area of ground sits just a couple of feet away from that depression and appears as if it would connect the two if it opened up.

Barricades and cones block the area around sinkholes that opened up in the front yard of a Winifred Way home.

Construction barricades line the front of Thomas’ house and portions of her neighbor’s driveways, while a series of large orange cones stretch across her driveway and front yard. And the driving lane of Winifred Way directly in front of the house is blocked by the barricades, forcing traffic down to one lane for a short distance.

A nearby neighbor who didn’t want to be identified said the sinkholes opened up shortly after the neighborhood’s storm drains were cleared a few days ago. He said residents aren’t sure if that caused the issue. And he added that he’s concerned about his property but thankful it hasn’t yet been affected.

A large sinkhole in the front yard of a home owned by Carol Thomas on Winifred Way appears to be at least four feet deep.

So far, it doesn’t appear as if the damage has extended onto the street. But it’s unclear if the storm drain running underneath Winifred Way has been damaged in any way in connection to the sinkholes.

The storm drain cleaning was performed by Sumter County.

A sunken area of ground sits near the smaller of two sinkholes in the front yard of a home at 733 Winifred Way.

This latest sinkhole is one of many that has been reported in The Villages over the past several years. On Tuesday, Village of Alhambra residents will learn more about a sinkhole-drained pond that has angered many homeowners in the area during a question-and-answer session at Savannah Center from 7 to 9 p.m. Those residents packed the Aug. 10 Community Development District 2 Board of Supervisors meeting to express their unhappiness with the condition of the pond.

Last month, a small sinkhole opened up at the corner of County Road 466 and County Road 101 in The Villages. That hole, which was located at the corner of the intersection in the northbound lane of CR 101 near a storm drain, forced officials to close a portion of the roadway at the entrance to the Village of Summerhill just west of the Southern Trace Plaza and across from The Villages High School.

The largest of the two sinkholes in the front yard of a house at 733 Winifred Way extends well under the Designer home’s driveway.

But none of the recent sinkhole activity can compare with what took place in the Village of Calumet Grove in February and again in May. In the early morning hours of Feb. 15, large sinkholes opened up on McLawren Terrace and forced residents from their homes. They reported hearing loud bangs as the holes were opening – one of which was at least 35 feet deep directly outside the doorway to one homeowner’s lanai.

Villagers Doris Morrill and her neighbors, Frank and Jan Neumann, were forced to leave their homes that morning and find alternate living arrangements. And the problem was made even worse in May when another round of sinkholes opened up on the same properties.

The smaller sinkhole in the front yard of a home on Winifred Way borders a neighbor’s property.

Engineering experts have agreed that Morrill’s home isn’t repairable and have recommended it be condemned and torn down. But Morrill reportedly is trying to sell the home and the situation became even more complicated when it was revealed that she is a “tenant for life” in the house, as her late husband’s children were his heirs.

The Neumanns also have extensive damage and are going through the legal process to determine how and if they are going to be able to repair their home and stay in The Villages. But they really can’t do much until something happens with Morrill’s home so the District can assess a storm drain pipe – it has caused suspicion among residents since the sinkholes opened up – that runs between the two homes and make any needed repairs. But that process can’t start until the unstable soil on Morrill’s property is shored up and deemed safe for crews to begin working.

Meanwhile, frazzled neighbors are worried about their property values plummeting as the sinkhole drama drags on. And CDD 4, which isn’t a part of PWAC, has been forced to absorb the mounting costs of the sinkhole issue, which as of Aug. 10 was $560,000. Those costs are expected to increase, which largely led supervisors to approve a preliminary budget that includes a 20 percent hike in the maintenance assessment paid by residents.

Traffic in front of the home at 733 Winifred Way is reduced to one lane, thanks to sinkholes that are directly beside the roadway.

Villagers who want to learn about sinkholes can do so at a Tuesday presentation being put on by the Property Owners’ Association.

John Thompson, founder of Good Foundation Florida, will be talking about sinkhole risk and financial involvement in a program at 7 p.m. at Eisenhower Recreation Center. This is an encore performance of a program offered in July, when people had to be turned away because the room was at capacity

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