LAND O’LAKES — Over the past 14 years, someone has reported sinkhole activity in Land O’Lakes an average of twice each month.
But on a Friday morning in July, that relatively common occurrence stopped being so run-of-the-mill. In an area known for its lake-front property, a massive cavity opened in the earth, and the Lake Padgett Estates neighborhood hasn’t been the same since.
The sinkhole, measuring more than 75 yards across and nearly 50 feet deep, swallowed two homes and left seven more uninhabitable in the area of Ocean Pines Drive near Lake Saxon. Video of one home crumbling into the water made "Land O’Lakes’’ a household phrase on national newscasts and left anxious homeowners wondering about the safety and value of their own property.
Developers built Lake Padgett Estates, the first high-end residential community in Land O’Lakes, in the 1960s and ‘70s, helping to transform rural central Pasco County into a Tampa bedroom community. But as part of the construction, contractors dredged soil from Lake Saxon and applied it to the shoreline to extend the lake-front property and add more home sites.
The community is left questioning whether that development technique doomed Ocean Drive from the outset.
Lake Padgett Estates could not be built the same way today because of stronger development safeguards, Kevin Guthrie, assistant county administrator for public safety, said at a community meeting in November.
Assessing blame wasn’t the reason for that meeting, however. Pasco County still must decide what to do with the giant hole that remains about 10 feet deep after debris and soil filled in the opening.
Though it resembles a normal retention pond, at the bottom sit two houses, a car, a motorcycle and other items.
The options under consideration include:
• Doing nothing except install a $50,000 decorative fence. Ocean Pines Drive would remain closed.
• Install sheet metal pilings on both sides of Ocean Pines Drive, effectively damming the sinkhole water and rebuilding the residential street. Cost estimate is $800,000.
• Connecting the hole to nearby Lake Saxon, which would require the county to build two cul-de-sacs to maintain traffic flow and provide access for public safety vehicles. Total cost could top $2.5 million.
The county expects to schedule more public meetings in 2018 to provide additional details and to gauge community interest in the options.
C.T. Bowen, Times Staff Writer