Builder won't budge on repairs to dried up pond

Posted at 7:31 PM, Apr 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-26 00:40:00-04

Frustrated doesn't begin to cover how some homeowners in Trinity Preserve feel after a year-long battle with big home builder Lennar.

The Barthelemys saved for years for what they call their dream home. They paid an additional $7,500 to purchase a premium lot on a pond and conservation behind their home.

Next door neighbor Bob Bertig tells a similar story. But within three months after both families moved in, the dream faded. The pretty pond dried up into a muck bed and a breeding ground for bugs.

The Barthelemys and their neighbors say they've written letters and made calls to their builder, Lennar. But in return letters from Lennar the builder refused to fix the pond.

Drawings Lennar filed with the Southwest Florida Water Management District show a pond bordering the lots 10 of the houses sit on.

But we found the owners have little protection in writing. The Barthelemys and others say they had to sign a disclosure that said in part. “There is no  guarantee that water levels will be constant or aesthetically pleasing...At times, water levels may  be nonexistent…the seller shall bear no responsibility to attempt to adjust or modify the water levels."

We questioned Lennar about the pond turned mud pit. A spokesperson cited the clause and suggested they would not dig the pond deeper for environmental reasons.

In a statement the company told us, “The drainage area in question is adjacent to the Duck Slough watershed, which is part of the headwaters of the Anclote River.”

I forwarded Lennar's response to the Southwest Florida Water Management District. They responded via email. SWFWMD states they would be willing to work with Lennar on a permit that would allow the builder to deepen the pond. Still the builder is not budging.

Meanwhile the families dealing with issues say all the plans to build out their backyards with swing sets, outdoor kitchens and possibly a pool are dead for now.

It is an expensive lesson learned. It appears there is no recourse other than for the homeowners to dredge the pond themselves and that is expected to cost $100,000 or more.