TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – City officials plan to tour an apartment complex riddled with sinkhole activity Wednesday at 11 a.m. to consider moving out some residents – or possibly demolishing some buildings.
This is after an 8 On Your Side investigation that exposed a 100-foot sinkhole underneath West Tampa’s French Quarter Apartments.
An engineer recommended a building be demolished and the site never built upon again. The engineer said other buildings were “unsafe.” This was seven years ago.READ MORE: Tampa official pushes for evacuation at apartments with sinkhole activity
An attorney for the property owner says the remediation efforts are tied up in a court battle with Citizens Property Insurance. The property owner is arguing for a more expensive and safer repair method and wants the insurance company to fork over more money to pay for the work.
City Councilman Charlie Miranda fears this should not continue to wait on legal issues. “Those are money deals. We’re not talking about money here. We’re talking about lives, and there’s a difference,” Miranda said.
Jean Niven of Merlin Law Group sent this statement on behalf of her client, businessman Ron Glas:
“The safety of French Quarter’s residents has been our priority during the entire, lengthy sinkhole claim process. French Quarter’s goal is to obtain the insurance proceeds necessary to properly remediate sinkhole impacted buildings. French Quarter and Citizens have each retained licensed Florida Engineers to inspect the structures and provide stabilization recommendations. French Quarter is committed to protecting its residents and welcomes inspections by the Building Department to assist in our monitoring process.”
Glas did move a few residents out of one building in 2008, right after an engineer, hired by Citizens Property Insurance, submitted a report that said, “Any attempt to grout or underpin could trigger a massive collapse of the material above the voids with catastrophic results.”
The engineer went on to say, the dangerous sinkhole activity “should not be remediated,” and one building should be “abandoned and not built upon again.”
8 On Your Side found Tampa code enforcement was never notified. “We don’t want the building collapsing with people inside,” Sal Ruggiero said.
Ruggiero moved to take immediate action, sending out a city code inspector and recommending state officials step in and possibly move some residents out of danger. But the city ran into roadblocks. Apartments are regulated by the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The city was told by state officials to stand down.
City officials say they were promised state action. But that has not happened yet, and now Miranda is setting a deadline. If there is no action by noon Tuesday, he wants city officials to step back in and take steps to keep residents safe.
Meanwhile, a state spokesman sent an email to 8 On Your Side, saying it can only step in on deficiencies it can see, not “trained engineering studies (such as projected sinkhole issues or underground structural concerns).”
The department did inspect the French Quarter and cited the property owner with 18 violations, from loose stairway railings to wasp nests. The property owner was cited for stucco cracks that could very well be from sinkhole settling.HERE ARE MORE STORIES ABOUT SINKHOLE CONCERNS:
- Spring Hill couple accused of lying about sinkhole found guilty
- Feds arrest husband and wife they say lied about sinkhole to home buyers
- Sinkhole warning signs