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 Calumet Grove.
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.
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.