Sinkholes disrupt subdivision
Six sinkholes open in Pinehurst, rupturing at least one water line and
distressing residents. The homeowners association is stuck with fixing them.

Article Courtesy St. Petersburg Times
Published July 29, 2003
CRYSTAL RIVER - Joe and Rita Ryder had just finished eating supper Saturday evening when they realized there was no running water to wash the dishes.

The couple lives down the block from an area where six large sinkholes opened up Saturday in the Pinehurst area of Meadowcrest, a Crystal River development. When the sinkholes opened, a water line broke. The Ryders said service was restored by Sunday morning.

The Ryders have been living in the subdivision for more than 10 years. Within that time, they have heard about sinkholes occurring in the area, and are wondering how their area government is going to deal with the recent activity.

This aerial photo shows damage from sinkholes that opened in the Pinehurst section of Meadowcrest on Saturday. The largest hole was estimated at 50 feet by 100 feet wide and 10 feet deep. An official says more holes may open.

Larry Brock, the county's director of road maintenance, estimated the largest sinkhole to be 50 feet by 100 feet and 10 feet deep.

"Sinkholes happen," Brock said. "But once they start breaking water lines or sewer lines, then we've got a whole other nightmare."

Because Pinehurst is a private subdivision, the homeowners association must take care of the six sinkholes. But Brock said the county will help guide the association in the effort.

A plan should take form in about a week and, once the area is stabilized, contractors can step in and begin work, Brock said.

But for now, residents of the quiet, deed-restricted community don't know when they will have their street - and, for some, their driveways - back again for daily use.

As one worker placed barriers around the largest sinkhole Saturday evening, he found a smaller one that he fell into, Brock said. The neon orange and white barrier still rests inside the hole, covered with dirt. And when county officials used a backhoe within the marked area, they found yet one more opening.

A small break opened up next to one resident's home. Brock agreed that the next time a sinkhole appears, it could be under a house.

"You could walk around the yard, not knowing that a sinkhole's there, and fall through," he said.

But not all area residents seem too concerned.

"It doesn't bother me," said Carl Bucklad, while looking at the marked-off area through his screened-in garage.

"I'm an older person; I've gone through these types of things," Bucklad said, noting that the taped-off area provided something interesting to look at.

"It's going to bother all of us because we have to foot the bill," said Joe Ryder, who sits on the Pinehurst Homeowners Association's budget committee.

"We have a contingency fund for contingencies, but I don't think there's enough to pay for that," Ryder said, adding that homeowners soon may learn about a possible "special assessment."