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Lagoon Construction Impacts Homeowners

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When Metro Development’s construction on the multi-billion-dollar Lake Hideaway Lagoon project commenced in November of 2023, it got off to an inauspicious start for nearby homeowners. The development that will contain nearly four thousand houses and the largest man-made lagoon in the world has been causing a litany of issues for adjacent Weeki Wachee citizens.

On Thursday, nearly 100 disgruntled property owners from communities ranging from Royal Highlands to Pine Grove met at the Christian Church in the Wildwood to talk about these issues and what to do moving forward.

For engineer and affected homeowner Tim Collins, the concerns began with “the ground shaking, the trees falling and things crashing around us.” In fact, multiple property owners reported intense vibrations in the earth reaching their houses and causing disturbances. These tremors measured at 2-3 times the max of 1.3 m/s allowed by law in some places.

The first bit of damage that the engineer noticed was the draining of his swimming pool due to leaks. He then began to see cracks in his floors, retaining walls, and in the foundation of his home. The piece de resistance: his sewage began to back up. Why is that?

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His drainage field collapsed. Collins cautions that the drainage fields of every nearby homeowner are likely to be affected due to most of these waste systems being installed decades ago. The cost for the combined fixes for a single domicile are likely to run in the tens of thousands of dollars, hence why dozens of property owners are frustrated and seeking damages.

Engineer and affected homeowner Tim Collins speaks about issues surrounding the lagoons construction at Thursday's meeting. [Photo by Austyn Szempruch]
Engineer and affected homeowner Tim Collins speaks about issues surrounding the lagoons construction at Thursday’s meeting. [Photo by Austyn Szempruch]

“I pled with them in multiple letters asking them to just cool it when they are operating this heavy equipment that is way too big to be doing construction work in a residential area,” said Collins. “This is mining-size equipment and maybe interstate highway construction equipment, but it is big stuff. The vibrations from that are now documented and they are excessive enough to cause damage.”

Before construction began, concessions were made by the developer to get the project greenlit, but this appeared to be little more than “lip service,” Collins lamented. As the Sun had reported in a previous article, the guidelines dictated that there was to be a 50-foot setback from homeowners’ properties and any future developments. Instead of obeying these clear boundaries, the construction crew was found to be “cutting timber right to the property line.”

After having trouble attempting to contact anyone involved, the project manager with Metro finally met with Collins, who pointed out this fact. In response, Collins was told that the workers would stop removing these trees, but it was already too late.

The properties that have been affected by this cannot be corrected any time soon. The company pledged to cultivate seedlings of “like species” where the others stood, but the plants will not regrow to full size in the locals’ lifetime. There are other concerns as well including property values. Considering the damage and the long-term nature of this project, homeowners are growing increasingly aware of the fluctuating value of houses in the area.

When the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) met with Collins about his concerns earlier this year, the engineer registered 4 meters per second squared on his seismometer. This was equivalent to the earthquake New York received in March of this year, “except we get it 11 hours a day.” When he raised this point with them, they did not disagree. He cautioned SWFWMD and the homeowners present at the meeting that sinkholes will quickly become a major concern if something is not changed.

Collins was then referred to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who he was able to get in contact with earlier that Thursday. After confirming his findings, the agency will be looking into the matter themselves, the engineer confirmed.

Collins’ goals with Thursday’s meeting: find a contractor to look at the damage done to properties, confront and seek recompense from the construction company, and raise awareness. A roughly 70-person contingent at the church gathering had already been affected and various attendees offered up suggestions for how to handle the situation moving forward. These ranged from hiring a lawyer to contacting Governor Ron DeSantis’ office.

Collins believes they could settle the issue out of court due to “significant punitive damages” owed to the local homeowners, however. Upon the suggestion of fellow disenchanted homeowner Fran Capo, the cohort ultimately decided they would have more power if they banded together.

“If you are going to do that […] everybody should put their names down, their addresses down, so if you are approaching an attorney, you’re telling them, these are all the people, these are all the problems, these are all their emails because, individually, us each trying to fight it is not as strong as a group trying to fight it.”

The Lake Hideaway Lagoon Project will house nearly 4,000 homes and the largest man-made Lagoon in the world. [Photo by Austyn Szempruch]
The Lake Hideaway Lagoon Project will house nearly 4,000 homes and the largest man-made Lagoon in the world. [Photo by Austyn Szempruch]
Dozens of disgruntled property owners attended Thursday's special neighborhood meeting. [Photo by Austyn Szempruch]
Dozens of disgruntled property owners attended Thursday’s special neighborhood meeting. [Photo by Austyn Szempruch]
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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