A large sinkhole in the Cortez East Plaza shopping center just a few feet from a Bradenton business continues to grow, and the property owner appears to be in no hurry to fix the problem.
Patrons of the shopping center at 655 Cortez Road West, say the sinkhole has been addressed for years. It continues to grow, and the fence around it continues to expand. Kesly Horan has been working at Plato’s Closet for three months, and her customers always ask her the same question: “Aren’t you afraid of falling in?”
Horan said she isn’t, but it is a concern for her.
“I don’t know how to feel about it honestly,” Horan said.
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The hole is about 25 feet long and 10 feet wide, about two feet deep on one end about 3 feet deep on the other. In the center, it appears much deeper and the caving continues with asphalt cracking and drooping another six or seven feet around the hole.
“It’s certainly not going to fix itself, and it’s not going to magically get smaller,” said April Montgomery, as she passed the site on the way to nearby Dollar General.
Horan agreed, noting, “I’d like to see the county involved. Who wants a giant hole right where they are trying to shop?”
Manatee County has been involved for some time. Jeff Bowman, code enforcement chief, said the property owner, Bradenton Associates LLC, has had ongoing sinkhole issues.
“He’s made repairs on others, but this last one he has not done,” Bowman said. “The county has been running daily fines since March 1 and he appeared before the special magistrate where he was adjudicated guilty and fined $500. It’s a pretty good size sinkhole, but it’s not natural. It’s being caused by the stormwater pipes not functioning because they’ve basically collapsed. So every time it rains, all that water is just pouring into these holes and compromising the parking lot.”
Building and Development Services Director John Barnott said his code enforcement department has been all over the situation and patience is running out.
“Our public works engineers have also been involved and, if at any point, they determine there is an imminent danger to anyone or any shop, there is a possibility that the county will have to go in and repair it on our own, and I’d have to check with legal, but we could potentially file a lien on the property if we have to do that.”
It is private property and the responsibility does belong to the property owner. Officials with Bradenton Associates LLC were unable to be reached for comment Friday. They have a Tampa address listed for a location, but a New York mailing address.
Barnott said the county’s engineers would reevaluate the sinkhole conditions and an action will be decided from there.