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East County Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017 3 months ago

Erosion may send homeowner to bank in Lakewood Ranch

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Summerfield Bluffs resident seeks help as Braden River's erosion creeps toward his property.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

For more than six years, Stuart Siegel has worried about how the Braden River has been creeping toward his property line.

Now Siegel, a resident of the Summerfield Bluffs neighborhood on River Bluffs Circle, is challenging supervisors on the Lakewood Ranch Community Development District 1 board to take action.

The river bank near his property has slowly eroded, with land crumbling down a 10-foot drop as the river erodes the bank.

“It’s systemic,” he said of the problem. “It’s all along the river.”

CDD 1 supervisors are exploring ways to help residents in Summerfield Bluffs who, like Siegel, might have property eroded by the flow of the river. Up to nine homes eventually could be effected by erosion, although most are situated farther from the river than Siegel’s home.

“The board just wants fact-finding at this point,” said Anne Ross, executive director of the Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority. “There’s no decision to assist. It’s finding what’s out there and available to help the situation.”

Ross expects to have information on potential resources available at the board’s September meeting.

Supervisors said research conducted in 2011 by their engineer and attorney noted river bank repairs could be done by the district, but the costs would be paid  by owners the affected parcels.

“If it’s four houses, and a quarter-million dollar repair, that’s $60,000 a house ($62,500) they have to pay,” CDD 1 Chairman Gary Berns said. “The rest of the residents of the district cannot by law pay it.

“We went through this years ago on what we could do and can’t do,” Berns said. “The condition has worsened, but that doesn’t mean the rules have changed…We cannot do except what is in the statute.”

Supervisor Laurie Fox, the newest member of the board, said the CDD should do something.

“(Siegel) has to sit and wait until the river erodes his property. This is not right,” she said. “I think we need to do something to help pursue somebody who can help these people.”

Siegel said he wants answers and he also believes Summerfield homeowners should share the cost of repairs because everyone would benefit from avoiding a flood situation.

His wife, Paula Siegel, said the erosion must be addressed sooner rather than later.

“What happens to the river affects everyone in the neighborhood,” she said. “I think the CDD allowed this problem to escalate and it should have been addressed a long time ago.”

Fellow Summerfield Bluffs resident Mike Gregory, speaking during the July CDD meeting,  said: “The community as a whole needs to come together.”

CDD supervisors considered the erosion issue in depth in 2011 at the urging of former Lakewood Ranch resident Tammy Kovar, also a Summerfield Bluffs resident. Her home inspections showed the foundation  was moving as the river eroded the banks on her property line.

Kovar, who now lives in Sarasota, ultimately allowed the bank to take her home.

“It was going to be a half-million dollar fix,” she said. “It would have benefited all of Lakewood Ranch, but who is going to pay an extra $500 a house to save one house?”

Siegel said he hopes the outcome will be different this time around.

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