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The Villages

Villagers who lost homes to sinkholes blame ‘negligence’

Villagers who lost their homes to sinkholes are blaming “negligence” for the catastrophic damage in new legal action.

Doris Morrill and Franklin and Janet Neumann are seeking damages from Community Development District 4. Morrill and the Neumann have retained the Nutter Law Group of Tampa to represent them in their case against CDD 4.

Morrill and the Neumanns were forced from their homes on McLawren Terrace in the Village of Calumet Grove in the wee hours of Feb. 15, 2018 “when multiple sinkholes opened up around and under their homes as a result of overflow water being diverted from the golf course ponds directly into their yard,” according to a letter from their attorney addressed to CDD 4.

One of the sinkholes that opened up in 2018 in the Village of Calumet Grove.

Morrill had to be rescued from her home. The Neumanns were able to escape unscathed, though a sinkhole at least 35 feet deep opened up just outside their lanai door.

Attorney Erik Nutter Jr. alleges that CDD 4 “failed to property maintain, timely repairs leaks, and prevent water infiltration” into the Morrill and Neumann properties “from the golf course, drainage pipes and other common areas, and otherwise allowed the golf course to operate defectively and in such a manner that would cause water infiltration into surrounding properties.”

Sinkholes in 2018 drained a pond at the Torri Pines golf course.

Both homes were condemned and Morrill and the Neumanns were forced to sell their homes as “distressed property taking a substantial loss,” Nutter wrote.

A second wave of sinkholes hit McLawren Terrace in May 2018 and caused even more damage. Both of the houses eventually were sold to I Buy Sick Homes, owned by Hayden Wrobel. The lack of progress at the sinkhole-damaged homes only heightened the prolonged neighborhood drama.

Doris Morrill, who lost her husband in 2014, is 85.

“This is not what I planned for my retirement,” Morrill told the CDD 4 Board in 2018.

Franklin Neumann is 82 and his wife is 80.

Two years ago, the CDD 4 approved a 20 percent increase in maintenance assessment rates to repair damages to streets, pipes and infrastructure.

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