PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – In August 2019, the people in the Lakeside Woodlands neighborhood near Hudson started noticing a problem.
Several large sinkholes started opening in a retention pond in the neighborhood. Engineering studies showed there is an underground cave system in the area.
The county closed off Willow Brook Court, forcing homeowners in the area to park their cars down the street.
Anytime they brought home groceries, they had to cart them in and wheel their trash out as the county determined it was unsafe to use the road.
The county worked to apply for grants to buy out the homes impacted by the sinkholes, applying for state and federal funds, but the effort was not successful.
“After we tried to apply for those grants, unfortunately we were informed that we were not successful in securing grant funding. We’ve worked with our county grant consultants, we’ve reached out to our recovery consultants and we just haven’t been able to find any other funding to acquire these houses,” said interim Emergency Management Director Laura Wilcoxen.
After hearing a report from engineers and the county emergency management team and after hearing appeals from residents for help, Pasco County Commissioners voted to buy out six of the homeowners for a total of $1.4 million.
“Oh, I think it’s wonderful. It’s a long time coming. We’ve been waiting for two years,” said Barbara Geren who lives just across from the retention pond where the sinkholes were first discovered.
She has cracks in her sidewalk and cracks inside her home. Some people who live near her report they’ve heard their homes moving in the night and many worry they could fail at any time.
“The holes are getting deeper, larger and we are on a cave system so you just never know when the hole can open and just drop down,” said Geren.
She is still waiting on the county to deliver the promised payout and believes it’s better than staying and worrying.
“We’re hurt a little bit. We’re saddened because we do have to leave our home,” said Geren.
Not all of the homeowners in the area have been as fortunate. The county was only able to purchase six homes, but many others were hoping for a buyout.
The county says they are working on finding state or federal funding to help.
“We’re still looking for ways to help those other homeowners that are outside of that road closure area, but right now we don’t have any other options,” said Wilcoxen.