of The Villages News
By Larry D. Croom
Published August 29, 2018
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.
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
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.
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.
Sinkholes opened up recently in the front yard of a home
owned by Carol Thomas at 733 Winifred Way in the Village of Winifred.
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 Village of Winifred is part of Community Development District 5, which would
be forced to get involved if there is any kind of damage to the area around the
storm drain. But CDD 5 is a member the Project Wide Advisory Committee, which
means the blow of paying for expensive infrastructure costs could be softened
for area residents.
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
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.
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
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.
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.