Pasco County leaders caution on rebuilding near sinkhole site

LAND O’LAKES, Fla. - Over the last five days, the Land O’Lakes community impacted by the massive sinkhole that destroyed two homes has faced questions of when, where and how to rebuild.

Five homes still remain vacant surrounding the sinkhole with the power turned off. 

Technically, homeowners can start from scratch in the same place so long as the building plans meet code requirements, but some county leaders don’t feel it’s a smart move.

Kevin Guthrie of Pasco County’s department of public safety said one recommendation has been for the county to acquire the affected property and connect the sinkhole to a nearby lake instead of allowing property owners to rebuild. However, such a proposal would take time and cooperation from multiple insurance companies representing the destroyed properties.

Upon seeing the sinkhole and the destruction, commissioner Kathryn Starkey was not convinced allowing homeowners to rebuild is a smart move.

“The county commission has a lot of decisions to make about what’s going to happen to this road, what’s going to happen to that hole. Do we let the families rebuild? I know Kevin {Guthrie} said he thought they could rebuild, but I want to look into that,” she said. “I don’t think that’s a wise decision.”

Guthrie said he hopes to start conversations and coordinating efforts with insurance companies this week, although it’s unclear when the county will decide on what to do with the properties and the road.

As of Tuesday, the sinkhole remains about 225 wide and 50 feet deep. Contractors will be coming out Wednesday morning to start doing structural testing on county property and easements. Residents wanting to test their property must go through their own insurance. 

The county is holding off on cleaning up the sinkhole until insurance companies can get involved due to legal concerns on private property. 

The homeowners of the two destroyed properties carried insurance, but the families renting had no coverage. The United Way has set up an official relief fund for those impacted by the sinkhole.

Photos: Sinkhole swallows two Pasco County homes

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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