8 On Your Side discovers major sinkhole activity near Tampa school

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A void – at least 100 feet deep – lurks beneath a building at the French Quarter Apartments on Armenia Avenue. Our 8 On Your Side investigation found the property owner discovered this seven years ago, yet did nothing to fix the sinkhole activity.

The property owner did move a few residents out of one building in 2008, right after an engineer, hired by Citizens Property Insurance, submitted a report that said, “Any attempt to grout or underpin could trigger a massive collapse of the material above the voids with catastrophic results.” The engineer went on to say the dangerous sinkhole activity “should not be remmediated” and one building should be “abandoned and not built upon again.”

8 On Your Side found Tampa Code Enforcement was never notified.

“We don’t want the building collapsing with people inside,” Sal Ruggiero said.

Ruggiero moved to take immediate action, sending out a city code inspector and recommending state officials step in and possibly move some residents out of danger.

“All I can tell you is I wish we knew about it eight years ago, but we know about now so we’ll take care of it,” Ruggiero said.

Another big concern: Busy Armenia Avenue. 8 On Your Side measured, and the building with the worst sinkhole activity is just 55 feet away from the major road. Plus, Oak Grove Elementary School is next door.

Also particularly troubling, the engineer called two buildings next door “unsafe” and recommended the residents move. But every unit in that building appeared occupied.

A property manager for the building would not comment to 8 On Your Side, but a lawyer for the property owner, Naples businessman Ron Glass, said repairs have not been made because Glass and his company are in litigation with Citizens Property Insurance. She added that safety is a top priority and that the on-site maintenance manager regularly performs “safety checks.”

But that’s not good enough for Tampa officials. Ruggiero said if the state doesn’t step in and demand a new, updated engineering report with new testing, his office will step up and the city will order testing.

MORE ON SINKHOLE ACTIVITY:

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